John Terriak is an influential and prolific carver from Churchill River, NL who currently resides in Nain, Nunatsiavut, NL. He first became interested in carving in childhood and began to work professionally in the early 1980s. Terriak is adept at working with many different materials including soapstone, marble, serpentine, whalebone, antler, wood, ivory, gold and silver. In addition to carving, he quarries his own soapstone, serpentine and anorthosite for his work . Although he is primarily known as a carver, Terriak also experiments with jewellery and drawing. His wife is the Nain artist Johanna Terriak.
Terriak made his first serious carving at the age of seventeen. He started carving seriously to reconnect with his Inuit language and culture. Terriak draws inspiration from the coastal landscape of Nain as well as from dreams and the people around him. He first imagines his works as figures that emerge from the materials themselves, and he describes them as having a realistic yet whimsical quality. His sculpture Shaman’s Spirit captures a human face, carved out of serpentine, suspended between an antler with caribou sinew and set into a stone base. Terriak has created many variations of untethered, bodiless and suspended spirit faces. As an artist adept at working in many materials, he is able to create these works from multiple sources such as stone, bone and antler and produce unlikely combinations.
In addition to his artistic practice, Terriak is a major advocate for artists, particularly those in Nunatsiavut. He advocated for Nunatsiavut artists while serving on the board of the Inuit Art Foundation, which he sat on for several years. Terriak’s works have been exhibited across North America and Europe and are in the collections of many institutions including the Canada Council Art Bank, Ottawa, ON and the Labrador Inuit Development Corporation in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, NL. His carvings have appeared numerous times in the Inuit Art Quarterly.