Glenn Gear at The Rooms, St. John’s

By Maeve Hanna

Ivaluk Ullugiallu | Sinew & Stars by filmmaker and multidisciplinary artist Glenn Gear is an immersive installation and meditative space regarding the pivotal place caribou hold in Inuit life. One of Gear’s largest murals to date, it covers the walls from ceiling to floor, expanding throughout the entire Harbour Art Gallery at The Rooms. An Indigiqueer artist of Inuk and settler descent, Gear positions the importance of Indigenous language, culture, and knowledge at the forefront of his artistic practice.

Painted directly on the gallery walls, the mural features two arms and hands reaching up to the night sky as if in an open prayer of awe and celebration of the world’s natural splendor. The fingers and wrists are embellished with traditional Inuit tattoos. Red braided rope suspended between the arms and appearing to be woven between the fingers mimics the animal sinew used for the game commonly known as “cat’s cradle.”  An animated film projection of small illuminated caribou shimmers as they move across the Northern landscape lit by the light of stars, moon, and aurora borealis before disappearing into the darkness. The painted lines of the mural connect metaphorical lines of inquiry concerning Inuit mythology, culture, knowledge, and teachings centred around the deep respect and ties to the land and animals of Gear’s Inuit ancestry as well as a personal space of exploration for the artist.

Complimenting the mural is Sivullivinik | Ancestor. Also painted directly onto the gallery walls, this artwork features two caribou antlers flanking an animated projection. It presents a kaleidoscopic video of beadwork that resembles a six-pointed star. The mesmerizing projection slowly spins in icy blue tints opening a portal to another place and time, inviting the viewer to drift into a space of potential for transformation. Sivullivinik | Ancestor is part of a dual projection; the second was included in Gear’s exhibition katitsuik | collect, gather presented at the Bonavista Biennale this past summer. Looking into the portal feels like looking into the eye of an ancient being, accessing a world nearly lost and reachable solely through memory and oral tradition.

Gear’s work celebrating the caribou raises awareness about the deeply social-emotional, cultural, and ecological trauma the Inuit experience with the decline of the caribou – an animal vital to many aspects of their daily life. His use of Inuit symbols, cosmology, lore, and culturally significant imagery allows him to explore his own fraught identity as an artist of Inuit and settler ancestry – an opportunity to learn and share traditional knowledge, creating cultural continuity, and supporting the vitality of Inuit teachings and ways of life. Sophisticated and highly contemporary, Gear’s work is positioned in a hybrid place linking the ancient understandings of Inuit life with contemporary ways of living.

Glenn Gear: Ivaluk Ullugiallu | Sinew & Stars continues until January 21.
The Rooms: https://www.therooms.ca/
This gallery is accessible.

Maeve Hanna (she/her) is a Queer, neurodivergent, MAD writer grateful to be living and writing in Agg Píktuk, Mi’kma’ki (Nova Scotia), the traditional and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq, lands and waters protected under the Treaty of Peace and Friendship (1760).