An Eye for Art: Soeka

In collaboration with art critic Rob PerréeReadytex 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 ‘Een trio indiaan met fluit’ [A Trio Amerindian with flute], mixed media on canvas, 78 cm wide x 136 cm high, 2010, by Soeka.

Soeka, Een trio indiaan op fluit [A Trio Amerindian on flute], 2010 / PHOTO Readytex Art Gallery/William Tsang
Soeka, Een trio indiaan met fluit [A Trio Amerindian with flute], mixed media on canvas, 78x136cm, 2010, / PHOTO Readytex Art Gallery/William Tsang
He names the work simply ‘Een Trio indiaan met fluit’ [A Trio Indian with flute] (2010). As if he wants to say: that is what it is, nothing more. That is typical for Henry Soekarman Kartotaroeno, in short Soeka (1957). An artist who is not hindered by any pretentions. Yet his paintings, drawings and gouaches are more than just reproductions of reality.

Soeka is a self taught artist. He was enrolled at the Nola Hatterman Institute for a short while, but has for the most part developed himself. His skill is, in the good sense of the word, old-fashioned. You don’t see much of this anymore. He has no problems whatsoever to depict the human figure, in whatever position. But he does more. The Indian in this work is a man who is visibly absorbed in that which he is doing, for one moment forgetting his surroundings to ensure that his music sounds good. Soeka has succeeded in portraying his inner reality.

I also suspect a hidden reality. The Indigenous form a small minority in Suriname. So small that they hardly count. The Trio-Indians are again a minority thereof. The painting of an Indigenous man is therefore a statement. I dare to say this, because the Indian in this work has been given a striking background. It could be that this is a natural background, somewhat abstracted, but I also see this background as a decoration. As a decoration of the man, a tribute to the Indian. That interpretation adds an extra charge to the work, additional proof that Soeka has more to offer than a skillful representation of reality.

This series of works is done primarily in black and white. One contrasting color – pale pink or pale blue –, he does not seem to need much more to bring his models to the forefront and make them have an impact. The dimensions also contribute to this. ‘Een Trio indiaan met fluit’ is a large work (78 x 136 cm). The limited reality of this blog post cannot handle these proportions. How unfortunate.

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.comFor more information about Soeka please visit the website www.readytexartgallery.com/soeka.

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More work bySoeka:

Soeka, 'Vrouw / paloeloe' [Woman / Flower], mixed media on canvas, 95x70cm, 2010, USD 450/ PHOTO Readytex Art Gallery/William Tsang
Soeka, ‘Vrouw / paloeloe’ [Woman / Flower], mixed media on canvas, 95x70cm, 2010, USD 450/ PHOTO Readytex Art Gallery/William Tsang
Soeka, 'Kotomisie II', oil on canvas, 67x83cm, 2008, USD 400 / PHOTO Readytex Art Gallery/William Tsang
Soeka, ‘Kotomisie II’, oil on canvas, 67x83cm, 2008, USD 400 / PHOTO Readytex Art Gallery/William Tsang
Soeka, 'Djamoe', conté on paper, 40x30cm, 2007, USD 100 / PHOTO Readytex Art Gallery/William Tsang
Soeka, ‘Djamoe’, conté on paper, 40x30cm, 2007, USD 100 / PHOTO Readytex Art Gallery/William Tsang

This edition of An Eye for Art has been sent as a RAG-mailing on March 26, 2014 and was published in Kunst en Cultuur in de Ware Tijd on March 26, 2014.

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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.

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