In collaboration with art critic Rob Perrée, Readytex Art Gallery has developed an 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 he talks about ‘Papegaai V’ [Parrot V], mixed media on paper, 47 cm wide x 63 cm high, 2012, by Sunil Puljhun.
‘Threat’ is the word that usually comes to mind when I think of the works that Sunil Puljhun (Paramaribo, 1978) has made in the last couple of years. ‘Threat’ and ‘fear’. That’s why they are executed primarily in black charcoal. Smudged, from black to deeper black. That’s why the light shines on the human figures like the blinding light during a harsh interrogation. That’s why it seems logical, reinforced also by the suggestive titles, to search for an underlying social message.
And then all of a sudden there is this work: ‘Papegaai V’ (Parrot V) from 2012. An innocent work, executed in bright, but transparent colors. A parrot on a branch. The paint does not restrict itself to the edges of his reality. It flows in all directions, as watercolors tend to do. The jumpy, seemingly uncontrolled way in which that occurs, makes of the animal not just the suggestion of an animal, but especially a lively and active creature that seems to be screaming at the top of his lungs. A screamer.
Is this a turning point in the work of Puljhun? Has he put his gloom aside? Has he conquered his fears? That is hard to say. For a time the artist experimented with Photoshop as a means to give a twist to reality. In this work however, the reality is manipulated manually.
Does he use the parrot as a symbol? That is a possibility. In a small community ‘parroting’ is easier than voicing your own opinion. It could be that he is irritated by that habit. Looked at from that perspective, a screaming parrot might be frightening after all. Especially when the artist puts him against a background of a black cloud. That then suddenly becomes more than decorum.
Sunil Puljhun was born in Suriname and has always lived and worked there. His work does not give that away clearly. He essentially covers themes that are universal, that apply to many more communities and countries.
TEXT Rob Perrée, New York, November 2014
TRANSLATION Cassandra Gummels-Relyveld
Want to see this and other work of Sunil Puljhun ‘up close and personal’? That’s possible at Readytex Art Gallery, Maagdenstraat 44-upstairs, Paramaribo. www.readytexartgallery.com. For more information about Sunil Puljhun please visit the website http://readytexartgallery.com/sunilpuljhun.
This edition of An Eye for Art has been sent as a RAG-mailing on December 3, 2014 and was published in Kunst en Cultuur in de Ware Tijd on December 3, 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.