ANNIE POOTOOGOOK at the Power Plant (231 Queens Quay West), to September 4. Free all summer. 416-973-4949. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNNN
Free of art historical references and other clutter, Annie Pootoogook 's intense drawings open a window into an Inuit world largely unknown to southerners. Drawing is a relatively new art form for the Inuit.
Pootogook's grandmother, Pitseolak Ashoona, was one of the first to take up the practice in the famous Kinngait Studios in Cape Dorset, both as a means of expression and as a source of economic stability when the community began adopting Western habits.
While her grandmother depicted the mythical subjects we've come to expect from Inuit art, Pootoogook unflinchingly records life as it is lived in the North today, making uncomplicated images in ink and coloured pencil crayons on paper.
There are happy times and hard times. In Man Crawling And Crying, Pootoogook's subject has lost a glove. On his knees, knife in hand, he pictures three girls, perhaps his daughters, as he weeps.
In another work, unusually laden with symbols, a woman falls prey to a skull-headed, bloody-eyed devil in stripes.
Good times include families working together and kids watching TV. In a modern kitchen with yellow curtains, three men and three women (one talking on a cordless phone) kneel on the floor to cut and clean a seal.
Mundane household objects like clocks, keys and telephones take on special significance as common yet foreign-seeming objects. One work depicts the iconic modern makings of bannock: Robin Hood flour, Tenderflake lard, salt, baking soda and a Coleman stove with a slightly burnt lid.
The artist's largest work to date, Cape Dorset Freezer, shows nine people shopping in a supermarket, their reflections visible in the glass of the freezer doors.
It may seem bizarre for the Inuit to pay premium rates for mechanically frozen junk food like pizza pockets and TV dinners, but, then, surviving in the North traditionally or otherwise is very hard work.
Pootoogook shows us with passionate yet impartial precision the reality of modern life on Baffin Island.