In collaboration with art critic Rob Perrée, Readytex Art Gallery has developed a new, informative initiative: An Eye for Art. Once every two weeks Rob Perrée discusses a work of art from the collection of Readytex Art Gallery. This time he discusses the work ‘The Dancer’, mixed media on paper, 55 cm wide x 75 cm high, 2011, by Sunil Puljhun.
In 2011, Sunil Puljhun (Paramaribo, 1978) creates a series of works which remind me, from some distance, of tattered black and white photographs. Towards the bottom they seem to have given up.
When I take a better look, I discover that they are paintings after all. Not average paintings, because occasionally charcoal, sand and glued on elements supplement the acrylic paint, literally giving them depth.
And with regards to content, Puljhun also throws me off. Through the sophisticated use of black and white – shadow and light – and by giving the figures a high silhouette appearance, they radiate a seductive beauty. The scarcely applied colors strengthen that image. A second look offers more insight to this as well. Hidden behind the deceptive beauty, lies a dark world in which pain, fear and sadness dominate. The beautiful figures are threatened. The deep black appears to be a symbol of gloom and death. ‘The Dancer’ is not an elegant young man making beautiful jumps, but a man who is pursued by life threatening flames. The titles of other works – ‘Run for your Life’ and ‘Slavery’ – even more clearly point towards similar interpretation.
That the paintings of Puljhun remind me of photographs, is also due to the fact that the artist uses photos as a source. I know that he’s been experimenting with existing images which he finds on the internet, since 2011. With Photoshop or some other photo editing program he distorts these images, so that not only do they become his, but they also incorporate his emotions. A logical and interesting experiment of which I hope to one day see the results. Sunil Puljhun was once an artist who in his work seemed to only bring tribute to beauty. ‘The Dancer’ shows that he is capable of providing beauty with poignant content.
TEXT Rob Perrée
TRANSLATION Cassandra Gummels-Relyveld, 2014
Want to take a closer, personal look at this work? That’s possible at Readytex Art Gallery, Maagdenstraat 44-upstairs, Paramaribo. www.readytexartgallery.com. For more information about Sunil Puljhun please visit the website www.readytexartgallery.com/sunilpuljhun.
This edition of An Eye for Art has been sent as a RAG-mailing on March 12, 2014 and was published in Kunst en Cultuur in de Ware Tijd on March 12, 2014.
Because really looking at art and understanding art are not always obvious and easy to do, we hope that these regular reviews will at least offer you some insight into the process. You will get to see how a connoisseur looks at art, discusses it, and then links the work to others within the international art world.
Of course you can only truly judge a work of art when you are actually standing in front of it yourself. We therefore hope to see you soon in Readytex Art Gallery and are eager to hear what you think of this artwork, and which other works of art you find yourself drawn to. Please note that the artworks discussed are still available for purchase at the time that the review is published.
Rob Perrée is art historian and works as freelance writer, art critic and curator, specialized in contemporary (Afro-) American art, African art, Surinamese art and art using new media. His work has appeared in countless catalogues, books, magazines and newspapers. He is editor of Sranan Art Xposed, editor in chief of Africanah.org and a member of the editing team of Pf Photo Magazine. His website: http://robperree.com.