Joseph Tisiga

Yukon Art Prize Artist Spotlight: Multidisciplinary reflections on concepts — and constructs — of identity

Creating Representation Indigenous Sovereignty
Painting of four individuals with wings that are dancing in the sky.

Joseph Tisiga is a multidisciplinary artist with over a decade of professional experience in community work. A member of the Kaska Dena Nation, he was born in Edmonton, Alberta and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon. He studied at Nova Scotia College of Arts and Design in Halifax and is now based in Montreal, Quebec.

His work — which is founded in painting and drawing but also includes installation, sculpture, photography, and performance — explores concepts of identity and serves as a way for him to “speak into or talk back to conditions of reality.” Drawing upon the banalities of everyday life as well as the supernatural, mythological, and ancestral for inspiration, Tisiga seeks to engage and challenge viewers by creating discourse about subjects such as Indigeneity, colonialism, and social history.

Painting of four individuals with wings that are dancing in the sky.
Joseph Tisiga, Some Rise (2020). COURTESY YUKON PRIZE FOR VISUAL ARTS.

Tisiga’s most recent solo exhibition, A voice emerged from an empty room saying “get up”, telling me to “get up”. The apparition was paralyzing…, ran at Bradley Ertaskiran in 2020 and featured watercolours, oil paintings, and two stunning installations. The first, titled Dreamcatcher, is a deconstructed tent canvas painted with oil sticks to create labyrinthine whorls of pastel, described by the artist as a meditative symbol “contemplating the non-linear path of life.” The second is an untitled 100-square-foot grid of plaster-cast cigarette butts adhered to panels of synthetic turf, spelling out various phrases that speak to Tisiga’s desire to start dialogues— “LAND BACK,” “ANCESTRAL DISDAIN,” and “NO FUCKIN IDEA WHAT’S HAPPENIN” being some of the more urgent messages that appear.

A 2020 Sobey Award winner and recipient of a 2017 REVEAL Indigenous Art Award, Tisiga has exhibited his work across Canada and the United States in both group and solo exhibitions. His work is also included in collections at such institutions as the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Montreal, and the Audain Art Museum in Whistler, BC.

Credit: This video was originally published by Bradley Ertaskiran on December 9, 2020. COURTESY BRADLEY ERTASKIRAN.