June 17, 2006
New Works by Abraham Anghik Ruben to be Unveiled at Mayberry Fine Art
Manitoba’s Icelandic community is enthusiastically anticipating the upcoming visit to Winnipeg of Abraham Anghik Ruben, one of Canada’s most innovative and collected contemporary sculpture artists. Ruben’s newest series of work, to be exhibited at Mayberry Fine Art, celebrates the historical connections between Inuit and Nordic cultures and, in particular, Icelandic and Viking influences on the lives of his ancestors.
Ruben’s art became the avenue through which he reconnected with his cultural roots after spending nine years in a residential school separated from his family and culture. The sculpture of this contemporary master can be found in the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s permanent collection, the Royal Ontario Museum, and Canadian Museum of Civilization.
The artist will be in Winnipeg as of Fri., Dec. 8th for the opening of Iceland 900 A.D. -- an exhibition featuring some 35 recent and selected works at Mayberry’s Exchange District gallery. The show opens Sun., Dec. 10 at 1 p.m. and continues through Dec. 23.
Ruben, who was born in Paulatuk, Northwest Territories and now resides and works on Salt Spring Island in B.C., will be available for one-on-one media interviews on Fri., Dec. 9th and Sat., 10th in advance of the exhibit opening reception Sunday afternoon (1 p.m. to 6 p.m.) The artist will be in attendance on Sunday and giving a talk about his work at approx. 2:30.
Mayberry Fine Art, 212 McDermot Avenue, (204-255-5690) in Winnipeg’s Exchange District
About the Iceland 900 A.D. Exhibition – Dec. 10 to 23
Ruben’s sculptures on exhibit at Mayberry Fine Art incorporate both Inuit and Icelandic/Norse Viking imagery – hunters, whales, ships, Norse falcons, bears, Odin (the Norse god). Many of his painstakingly-detailed works are two-sided, depicting one culture on one side and the other on the opposite face of the sculpture.
The centerpiece of the exhibition and the inspiration for the title of the show is a three-foot-high sculpture entitled Iceland 900 A.D. Its spiritual imagery, visible from every angle, reflects mythology and technology prevalent in the circumpolar region more than 1000 years ago. It was during this time that Ruben’s ancestors traveled from Alaska to Iceland and northern Greenland, while Scandinavians traveled west to those areas from their homelands.
“Part of my effort is to recapture an unfinished story. In the (Inuit-Norse Viking) contact period, a lot of the Norse mythology and legend was never recorded. In my own way, I’m trying to recreate a cultural record. Around 900 A.D., when the Norse Vikings started adopting Christianity, the artwork inspired by their old shamanic beliefs was no longer developed. It some areas it was completely outlawed. There is a whole body of artwork that was never created, especially related to the Vikings’ contact with the Inuit in Greenland. I am trying to create a bridge between the historical evidence and my own interpretation of what might have taken place.” – Abraham Anghik Ruben.
The majority of the sculptures are carved from soapstone, although Ruben also works in bronze. One piece in the exhibition is mounted on a whalebone base which has been carbon-dated to 800 A.D.
Ruben’s sculptures in this exhibition are priced from $800 to $15,000 and can be viewed online at www.mayberryfineart.com
“Abraham has been waiting 30 years to do this series. The complexity of his work exemplifies the extensive research he has done into his ancestry and the cross-cultural influences among Icelandic, Nordic and Inuit peoples. Abraham Ruben is truly a modern interpreter of the fascinating, cultural history of the circumpolar region and of traditional stories passed down by Inuit shaman and storytellers.” – Bill Mayberry, Owner, Mayberry Fine Art
About the Artist
Abraham Anghik Ruben was born near Paulatuk, NorthWest Territories in 1951, one of 16 children. His family, who followed a traditional Inuit lifestyle, were hunters and fishers along the Arctic shores. As a child, Ruben eagerly absorbed everything his elders told him about the Inuit culture and its traditions. His great grandfather and great grandmother were both respected shamans from the Bering Sea area.
At age eight, Ruben was sent to residential school in Inuvik where he lived for nine years. His contact with his family was limited to summer holidays and he soon lost his ability to speak Inuktitut fluently.
When he left school at age 18, Ruben followed his interest in art, the avenue by which he reconnected with is cultural roots and learned of the Inuit’s historical and cultural connection to Nordic peoples. In 1971, Ruben was invited to apprentice under a professor of design at the Native Arts Center at the University of Alaska in its fine arts study program. In 1975, he decided to devote himself full-time to his art and worked in seclusion in a geodesic home studio outside Yellowknife for four years before moving to Vancouver in 1980.
Thanks to three solo exhibitions at a Toronto gallery in the late 1970s, Ruben’s work was introduced to the Canadian art scene.
Ruben is an innovator in his style and choice of materials. He has broken the mold in terms of what Inuit art traditionally has been. His diverse ancestry includes Bering Sea Alaskan, Irish American, and Portuguese-African. Because of that, he has no qualms about producing work that has a European origin, particularly work that reflects the Norse experience in North America.
His intricate pieces, which reflect the complexity and craftsmanship of a contemporary master, can be found in the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s permanent collection, as well as in the Royal Ontario Museum and Canadian Museum of Civilization, and in the private collections of major Canadian corporations such as Glaxo Canada, Labatt, Imperial Oil, Noranda and GE Canada. Ruben has had solo exhibitions at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (2001-02), as well as in galleries in New York, New Mexico, Idaho, Toronto and Edmonton.
Ruben now lives and works on Salt Spring Island in B.C.
To learn more about Abraham Anghik Ruben, visit his website at www.inuastudio.com.