Born in Windy Lake, NU in 1920, John Pangnark was an active sculptor from the mid-1960s until his death in 1980 . He lived on the land until the 1950s, when he settled in Arviat, NU. Pangnark became most well-known for his abstract representations of human figures and minimalist style.
Pangnark was considered a leader and an innovator in Inuit art. His artistic practice is defined by a transition from realism to abstraction . Over the course of his artistic career, his figures had fewer limbs, the genders became more ambiguous and the forms became less defined. Pangnark created smooth, flattened planes in his sculpture to delineate his figures, imbuing his work with a sense of subtle movement . The piece Seated Figure (1968) demonstrates Pangnark’s earlier focus on creating realistic figures. The surface has been extensively polished and shaped, the body defined by symmetrical contours. The viewer can clearly see a head, two arms, two legs and even a nose. Although the figure may not be obviously gendered, the facial expression could be described as contented and perhaps smiling.
Pangnark’s later work shows an appreciation for line and volume over anatomy and proportions. His pieces favour the natural characteristics of the stone, coaxing features to emerge from the pre-existing geometry. His sculpture Inuit Figure (n.d.) is an example of this aesthetic . The piece has been polished to the degree that the lines defining the figure have become smoothed and rounded; however, the viewer is still able to perceive the original form of the unworked stone. The face is denoted by simple etched lines—the shape of the head following the curve of the rock. Two hands, possibly mitted, have also been etched into the side. The figure appears to be wearing a parka, masterfully brought out by changing colours of the stone and narrowing towards the base. Pangnark’s style is partially attributable to the qualities of the material he worked with. The local deposits of stone near Arivat are notoriously resistant to modification, resulting in a distinctive minimalist style for artists from the area .
Pangnark was one of four Inuit artists to exhibit at Expo ‘70 in Osaka, Japan in 1970 . During the same year, his work was featured alongside Jessie Oonark in a travelling exhibition Oonark/Pangnark hosted by the Canadian Museum of History . His work is held in the collections of the Canadian Museum of History and National Gallery of Canada, among several other prominent artistic institutions.
2002: Set a record for his sculpture Inuit Figure sold at auction by Waddington's Auctioneers & Appraisers.
1970: One of four Inuit artists to participate in Expo '70 in Osaka, Japan.
1. Maria von Finckenstein, “(1920-1980) John Pangnark”, Inuit Art Quarterly 13, no. 1(Spring 1998): 26.
2. Ingo Hessel, “Arviat Stone Sculpture: Born of the with an Uncompromising Medium,” Inuit Art Quarterly 5, no. 1(Winter 1990): 11.
3. Von Finckenstein, “(1920-1980) John Pangnark”, 26.
4. Waddington’s, “Lot 218 JOHN PANGNARK (1920-1980), E1-104, Arviat” last modified April 23, 2017. https://www.waddingtons.ca/pastauction/5/lot-218 .
5. Von Finckenstein, “(1920-1980) John Pangnark”, 29.
6. John Geoghegan, "Inuit Art at Expo '70" Inuit Art Quarterly 31, no. 4 (Winter 2018): 56-57
7. Hessel, “Arviat Stone Sculpture,” 11.