Contemplation: Aiden Ash Penwaq: Artist/Curator is one of several paintings from artist Nelson White’s exhibition Tukien (Awaken) that toured major galleries throughout Mi’kma’ki from 2020 to 2023.
Nelson White’s paintings document and celebrate kin. Tukien (Awaken) maps a community of artists, creatives, activists, and leaders who defy simple and singular understandings of Indigeneity. His works celebrate the blending of past, present, and future in contemporary Indigenous life — what the artist describes as a “collective awakening.”
Combining bright colours and a Pop art style with traditional motifs, White’s paintings undermine one-dimensional understandings of Mi’kmaq people and their lived realities. His work is particularly resonant in Newfoundland and Labrador, where many reconnect with their Indigenous heritage following years of erasure by colonial entities.
This work celebrates the strength, depth of character, and distinct style of artist and curator Aiden Gillis, also known as Aiden Ash Penwaq. With each person he paints, White builds valuable connections and fosters further kinship between him and his peers. Through sharing his work, he hopes to strengthen community awareness and understanding.
Born and raised in the community of Epwikek, Ktaqmkuk (Flat Bay, NL), Nelson White is a member of the Flat Bay First Nation Band. He attended the Visual Arts program at the former Bay St. George Community College, before graduating from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. His paintings are included in public and private collections across North America, including The Rooms Collection and the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.
The Nova Scotia Spotlight series highlights recent acquisitions to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia’s Permanent Collection by artists contributing to the province’s cultural heritage. With support from Michelin North America (Canada) Inc. and the Donald R. Sobey Family Foundation in Memory of Robert W. M. Manuge.