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 week ‘Missing link’, acrylic on canvas, 190 cm wide x 150 cm high, 2009, by Roddney Tjon Poen Gie.
This painting is from Roddney Tjon Poen Gie (Paramaribo, 1962). He is currently attracting attention because he has just made an enormous sculpture for the Sculpture Park in Moengo. He also makes small sculptures. He works with ceramic, but especially with pieces of wood or branches which he finds in his immediate surroundings. His paintings seem to be placed in the distance due to that three-dimensional work. Still, the differences between his three-dimensional work and his ‘flat’ work are less than they seem.
What immediately catches the eye are the colors which Tjon Poen Gie uses. They display rays of joy. Still, with this painting you could ask yourself if the colors are not being used as contrast, to ask attention for the serious content. Is it not notable that he also portrays the colors in words? Does that not indicate that he is ‘warning’ about a readily available interpretation? Is the shuffling and splashing with colors in the background not another indication of that?
So as he says himself: “I am a mix of a Chinese and a Creole.” As such, to lots of fellow nationals he lacks a clear identity. He resists that because he is in the first place Surinamese. That is why he attempts to bring different cultures together in his work. That is why he mixes Chinese language signs with those of the Maroons. That is why he combines positive water elements – he sees water as symbolic of the Chinese who worked on the Surinamese water management – with the proud colors of the maroons. That is why the central figure in this painting is a mixture of human and animal, a symbol of fusion.
Is the title – ‘Missing Link’- a message to the viewer? Must they go in search of the missing link? Do they insufficiently see the links between the different races? Do they insufficiently see that unity can also hide in diversity?
There is yet another factor which diminishes the alleged difference between painting and sculpture. Roddney Tjon Poen Gie convincingly shows in this work how you could bring space into a painting. The central figure stands clearly in the foreground. The background is the décor for the space in which he (or she) moves.
TEXT Rob Perrée, Amsterdam, May 2014
TRANSLATION David F. Michael, 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 Roddney Tjon Poen Gie please visit the website http://readytexartgallery.com/roddneytjonpoengie.
This edition of An Eye for Art has been sent as a RAG-mailing on June 04, 2014 and was published in Kunst en Cultuur in de Ware Tijd on June 04, 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.