Artist Sunil Puljhun is exploring an entirely different direction. Predominantly black, somber canvases with acrylic paint and collages, have been exchanged for cheerful watercolors and laughing Hindustani dancers.
For a long time Sunil Puljhun was focused on universal problems, especially those of the youth. He used mixed media, amongst which sand with dark acrylic paint. He also used various techniques: a combination of collage techniques and painting.
In 2010 he participated in a large exhibition in the gardens of De Surinaamsche Bank N.V., Paramaribo SPAN. ‘For me that was a platform that helped me to become more daring. It was a very positive experience. The installation I made for this exhibition, ‘Time Will Tell’, was a very challenging work. I dared to give my thoughts free rein. Paramaribo SPAN helped me to move forward.’
The large turnaround came after his solo exhibition The Weight of Darkness in De Hal, in 2011. It dealt with subjects from all around the world: power, greed, violence. ‘I thought to myself: what should I do now? I was stuck and wondered: how do I go further?’ Suddenly he applied the theme of colleague artist Marcel Pinas, “kibri a kulturu” (preserve the culture), to himself. ‘As a Hindustani artist, what do I see from my own culture? As he asked for explanations surrounding the background of several rituals from Indian culture, he received no satisfying answers. ‘For me, the choice for this theme, has to do with culture preservation as well. If you ask young people nowadays what for example kathak is, they don’t know.’
The cultural heritage of hinduism is so vast that the artist quickly chooses to delineate the field and start his research on the subject of dance. At the department ‘Cultuurstudies’ he read about everything related to it: facial expressions, finger positions, the clothing, the origins …
Early in 2014 Sunil went to Belgium for a residency of one month, at GLO’ART (also on Facebook), a ‘global art center’. He had hoped to continue working in the new direction he had recently started on. ‘They had however, selected me based on older work and at GLO’ART (also on Facebook) they wanted me to continue working in that manner.’ Initially a disappointment, but he quickly decided to make the best of it and this ultimately resulted in a beautiful series of enhanced digital prints. ‘A few years ago I took a workshop in photography from Peter Thielen. I started working on top of canvases with photos printed on them.’
Once back in Suriname however, he became once again engrossed in the new theme. Aside from dance, other elements were gradually added, such as the Hindi script, the gods, the flags, the rituals surrounding death. He is preparing himself for a solo exhibition in 2015. He presented a number of these new works at the opening of the new location of Readytex Art Gallery (also on Facebook) in February 2015.
About the artist:
From a very early age, Sunil Puljhun (Paramaribo, 1978) made posters which he sold in his neighborhood in order to earn money to pay for school. Encouraged by art teacher Djiman and various family members, he started lessons at the Nola Hatterman Art Academy (NHAA) halfway through the nineties. He graduated from this institute in 1999 and is currently a teacher there. He is affiliated with the Readytex Art Gallery (also on Facebook).
Since 2001 he has participated in the National Art Fair every year. In 2009, Sunil Puljhun participates in the group exhibition Multiculturalism, in Villa Nuts, the Hague, in the Netherlands, together with colleagues Remond Mangoensemito (and more), Ravi Rajcoomar (also blogging) and Raul Wongsodihardjo. During this period he also spends time working as an art teacher at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie (GRA) in Amsterdam, as part of the exchange program between the GRA and the NHAA in Paramaribo.
TEXT Marieke Visser
Marieke Visser (Bennekom, the Netherlands, 1962) studied journalism and language and literature in the Netherlands. As publicist she writes a lot about art, culture, history and tourism from her own news agency Swamp Fish Press. Three large art projects to which she has recently contributed are: Wakaman Drawing lines, connecting dots, Paramaribo SPAN and Kibii Wi Koni Marcel Pinas The Event. She is currently editor in chief of Sranan Art Xposed.
TRANSLATION Cassandra Gummels-Relyveld
The Dutch text was previously published in EFM Magazine (also on Facebook) vol. 3, no. 10, November 2014. Several months later, February 2015, Sunil Puljhun has decided to go back to his earlier themes & techniques. If you’re in Suriname, stop by at Readytex Art Gallery (also on Facebook) to see (and purchase) his work in real life. Steenbakkerijstraat 30, Paramaribo, Suriname.