By Lattimer Gallery
Posted in News, on July 23, 2021
Lattimer Gallery is delighted to feature four new pieces by the exceptionally talented Nuxalk/Nuu-chah-nulth artist Kelly Robinson. Within the past two years, Kelly has received both the BC Achievement Foundation’s Fulmer Award in First Nations Art and YVR Art Foundation’s Mid-Career Artist Scholarship for his contributions to Nuxalk/Nuu-chah-nulth art and culture. While he often works and primarily trained in the Nuu-chah-nulth style, Kelly is most known for his refined interpretation of Nuxalk design forms which inspired him as a child. After taking a brief hiatus in 2019 to enrich his understanding of Nuxalk culture, Kelly is back with a run of pieces related to transition and transformation – artistic, personal, and spiritual.
This new sculpture stands as the first piece of Nuxalk artwork to be cast in bronze: Tl'uk, a stunning Moon mask. From a numbered limited edition of twelve, it was created to represent the Nuxalk Lunar Calendar’s twelve moons. This Lunar Calendar is split between Harvesting Moons (January to September) and Ceremonial Moons (October to December). Each of these Moons represent an action to be taken during that time of year, and all these actions in sequence enable Nuxalk people to sustain a harmonious and sustainable society. Tl'uk represents April, or Siqyulc, the time for making salmon weirs. It is the second month of the Nuxalk Lunar Calendar. Tl’uk is striking yet undeniably gentle, gracefully conveying the Moon’s role as a guardian of humanity. Its rounded features are typical of Nuxalk design.
“This Lunar Calendar is essentially a living clock that has been a consistent reminder of how we all have a time and place in the great universe.”
- Kelly Robinson
Second, we have Knowledge Keeper, a playful, expressive, and essentially Nuxalk mask. A knowledge keeper is a member of Nuxalk society who dedicates themself to the preservation of traditional cultural practices and has a strong connection to the spirit realm. The colour blue, also associated with the spirit realm, covers much of Knowledge Keeper’s face, with pockets of red, white, and black appearing only around the mask’s mouth, nose, and eyes to signify transition between the two realms. As with Tl'uk, Knowledge Keeper is informed by traditional Nuxalk design in its soft, smooth features which sit crowned by a thin mane of white rabbit’s fur. Knowledge Keeper’s smile exudes an air of benevolent mischief and hints at wisdom waiting to be shared.
Third is Thunderbird Transforming, a powerful mask created in a traditional Nuu-chah-nulth style. It depicts the titular Thunderbird midway through his transformation into Human form. Thunderbird is a legendary being in Nuu-chah-nulth mythology who lives atop Thunder Mountain and preys upon Whales. He is aided in his hunt by Lightning Snakes, or Haietlik, mythic serpents who live among Thunderbird’s feathers and act as lightning-imbued harpoons. The red figure painted across this mask’s forehead is a lightning snake. Thunderbird Transforming’s smooth yet angular features and minimal, asymmetric painted formline are hallmarks of Nuu-chah-nulth design. This mask contains great energy which is, in part, generated through Kelly's elegant and labour intensive knife-finishing.
Our final featured piece is Ravens, a large and intricately carved silver bracelet depicting two Ravens transforming into Human form. One Raven sits perched atop the other and the wings of both stretch out behind them. Small human faces, comprised of an eye, brow, mouth, and nostril, hide within these wings to signify the act of transformation. Raven serves as the creator figure for nearly all Northwest Coast Indigenous Nations and is known for his intelligence, curiosity, and creativity. Raven can be identified by his strong, straight tapered beak, sometimes very slightly curved or squared at the tip. Beyond making effective use of the cuff’s great size, Ravens’ rolling, tiered forms gracefully convey a feeling of flow, in time, space, and spirit.
Lattimer Gallery is proud to have had a long-standing working relationship with Kelly Robinson. We have several pieces from him beyond those featured above, which can be viewed here along with a more detailed biography. We look forwards to following Kelly's career well into the future.