Abraham Anghik Ruben | Les esprits se rencontrent : Interactions Vikings-Inuits

Abraham Anghik Ruben | Similar in Spirit: Norse and Inuit Interactions

June 1 to August 19, 2017

La Guilde proudly presented, as part of the Montreal Fist Peoples Festival and in collaboration with Land InSights, the solo exhibition by Inuvialuit (Canadian Arctic region) master sculptor Abraham Anghik Ruben: Similar in Spirit: Norse and Inuit Interactions. This exhibition, which was held from June 1st to August 19, 2017 was the first event of the season and marked the launch of the festival. For the occasion, the artist presented fifteen sculptures. Each of the artworks were accompanied by a corresponding preparatory sketch drawn by the artist. Awarded the Order of Canada in 2016, Abraham Anghik Ruben is recognized for his narrative works greatly inspired by myths and legends. He is inspired by various influences and his work mixes elements of Christian, Inuit, Northern and Western iconographies. Coming from a long lineage of Inuit shamans, who are mediators between the world of animals, spirits, Men, and that of Nature, Ruben is keeping up with his filiations by acting as mediator between his history, his culture, his beliefs and the spectator viewing his work. For this exhibition, the artist presented his personal interpretations of various Inuit and Norse myths and their associated stories. This exhibition was a unique chance to dive into the world of Northern people!


Born in 1951, Abraham Anghik Ruben grew up in a camp south of Paulatuk, Northwest Territories, east of the Mackenzie River delta. There, Inuvialuit communities have come into contact with successive waves of Westerners: first whalers, then Canadian Mounted Police, then Christian missionaries, and finally the Hudson's Bay Company. Inuit living there did so according to ancient traditions, although they were raised following Christian beliefs, and they took advantage of the materials, the culture and other tools originating from Westerners. Snatched from his parents and his culture at the age of eight, Ruben was sent to an Aboriginal residential school with his brothers and sisters. He will only return home at the age of 19 years. This traumatism will profoundly scar him emotionally and culturally. He subsequently joined the Native Arts Centre at the University of Alaska in 1971 and followed six years of training, during which he developed a particular interest for design and the use of materials. His professor Ronald Senungetuk will then have a great influence on his advancement and his practice. Very rapidly, the mastery of his medium, his technique, and the themes he deals with caused him to be noticed by the Pollock Gallery in Toronto, among others, where he held his first vernissage at the age of 25 years old.

Abraham Anghik Ruben was awarded the Order of Canada in 2016. He participated in several collective exhibitions of contemporary art, such as Noah’s Ark, held at the National Gallery of Canada in 2004, where his work was exhibited alongside the likes of artists Brancusi, Degas, Picasso, Louise Bourgeois, Brian Jungen and Kiki Smith. More recently, the Museum of Inuit Art dedicated their spaces to a solo exhibition of his, Beyond Aurora Borealis in 2015-16. His creations are part of important museum collections, such as that of the Canadian Museum of History, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and the Winnipeg Art Gallery. His work may also be admired at the Canadian Embassy in Washington and has been integrated into the Cerny Inuit Collection in Switzerland. Since 1986, he has been living with his family in Salt Spring Island, B.C., where he works.


“As an artist, I have always been fascinated by the cultures and people of the Northern Hemisphere. The interest has led me to the ancient relationship between the Inuit and the Viking Norse. There are interesting parallels between these two northern people. At the time of first contact, they held similar spiritual and religious beliefs through their respective practices of shamanism. Their spiritual, cultural and artistic traditions developed over long periods of time, tempered by their relationship to the land and the powerful spirits that inhabited these places. My sculptures portraying Viking Norse myths, stories and legends have Norse decorative lines and motifs. These are designs that I have adapted and changed to enhance the visual impact and to convey the sense of belonging to that place and time. As a storyteller, I have sought to bring life to these ancient voices from a time when these two northern people held a reverence for the land and for all living things therein that provided sustenance and survival.”

- Abraham Anghik Ruben


Land InSights is the driving force behind the Montreal Fist Peoples Festival, a multidisciplinary artistic and cultural event that makes Montreal the nerve centre of Indigenous creativity from the three Americas for ten days in August. Upon their foundation in 1990, three strategic objectives were set: create a major First Nations festival in Montreal, commemorate and remember the Great Peace of Montreal 1701 upon its tricentennial, and secure a permanent home for First Cultures in Québec’s metropolis. Their mission: link the artistic and cultural renaissance of First Peoples to the cultural dynamics of a major metropolis within a sustainable development perspective based on friendship between peoples, diversity of sources of expression as a collective cultural wealth to share and recognition of the specificity of First Nations

Image : ABRAHAM ANGHIK RUBEN, Odin Shape Shifter. © Kipling Gallery
Photo: Exhibition view, 2017. © La Guilde