Contemporary Indigenous Art from the Northwest Coast

Indigenous art from the Northwest Coast is often characterized by strong graphic elements, stylised forms, and bold saturated colours. In prints, masks, textiles, and paintings, repeating forms unfold in mesmerizing patterns within spatially-balanced compositions. Often, figurative representations of animals and humans undergo a radical rearrangement of features and limbs to suggest the metaphysics of transformation. Principles of design such as configuration, expansion, and distribution, are used across mediums, producing captivating and visually striking representations. 

Contemporary Canadian Indigenous artists such as Susan Point, Robert Davidson, and Dylan Thomas draw on formline design, an artistic style and practice developed earlier by artists such as Bill Reid (Haida). Formline compositions, with their ovoid shapes, expanding and contracting thick lines, and u-forms, represent cosmological principles of space and balance, often through images of animals and symbols of specific cultural meaning. 

We are thrilled to present the first of a series of Indigenous art exhibitions on ArtRow and we are starting with artists from where we live, work, and play: the Pacific Northwest. Coast Salish, Kwakwaka’wakw, Heiltsuk, and Haida artists are producing dazzling works that visually represent their histories, ancestors, traditions and emerging art practices. In this exhibition, we highlight historical prints, wood carving, and emerging practices in printmaking and painting. 

The art world, like all modern colonial structures, is infected by power imbalances and, as such, Indigenous voices have been lacking or silenced. While collecting Indigenous art can be fraught with legacies of domination, at ArtRow, we hope to inspire responsible learning and acquisition. ArtRow is a platform run by non-indigenous people and we do not wish to speak for the artists listed here, who represent diverse cultures, places and practices. We stand beside these artists as they continue to produce rich and poignant works that are balanced between the realms and that connect past to present. 

ArtRow acknowledges, with the utmost gratefulness, goodwill and respect, the peoples who share their unceded territories with us – the Lekwugen Peoples, Songhees and Xwsepsum Nations. We also give thanks to the diverse Nations of the Pacific Northwest Coast, the Haida, Kwakwaka’wakw, Coast Salish and Turtle Island ancestors, hereditary leaders, matriarchs, and all creatures great and small who have loved and cared for this land since time immemorial.”

Bill Reid, Haida Grizzly Bear, 1973
Robert Davidson, Sisters of the Underworld, 1998
James Quinn, Orca Mask, 2021
Susan Point, Beyond the Edge, 2018
Dylan Thomas, Serpent Cycle, 2019
LessLIE, beLIEve in equality
Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, N.W.C Man, 2021
KC Hall, Kakatawa, 2021

Related Posts