Judas Ullulaq was an artist originally from Talurjuaq (Taloyoak), NU and later moved to Uqsuqtuuq (Gjoa Haven), NU. Ullulaq is a well-known artist from the Kitikmeot Region of Nunavut whose sculptures incorporated whalebone, ivory, antler, soapstone, muskox horn and sinew. Ullulaq’s two brothers, Nelson Takkiruq and Charlie Ugyuk, as well as his nephew, Karoo Ashevak, were also well-known carvers, whose works influenced one another . In addition to being a well-known artist, Ullulaq is remembered as a respected community leader and known for his great personal warmth, gentleness and humour .
During his childhood, Ullulaq observed his sisters and mother sewing and quickly learned how to sew and make dolls as well . He also grew up watching and participating in hunting with his father and brothers, which later influenced the subjects of his carvings. When Ullulaq first started carving in 1961, he primarily worked in ivory creating sculptures of small animals, models and dog sleds and over time his carvings progressed from ivory miniatures to large mixed-media sculptures . He was one of the first artists in his region to begin working with whalebone .
Ullulaq is best known for his sculptures that focus on spirits and supernatural themes, for which the Kitikmeot region has also become known for . Ullulaq would create figures characterized by expressive faces with staring, inlaid eyes or flaring nostrils and gaping mouths. These elements give his work an animated, expressive and occasionally grotesque presence . While many of Ullulaq’s figures represent supernatural themes, he also captures daily activities, such as hunting or cleaning fish, which he infuses with a sense of humour .
Ullulaq’s work was first exhibited in 1977 and it appeared with increasing frequency in commercial and public galleries in the early and mid-1980s . He had his first solo exhibition in 1983. His work has been exhibited internationally and is included in many permanent collections across North America including the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, QC, the National Gallery in Ottawa, ON, the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, BC, the Winnipeg Art Gallery in Winnipeg, MB, the Dennos Museum Center in Traverse City, MI, and many more. He had over 90 solo and group shows in his lifetime .