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 ‘Zebra’, painted driftwood, 216 cm long x 112 cm high x 86 cm wide, 2009, by Roddney Tjon Poen Gie.
I saw this sculpture for the first time in a photograph made in Readytex Art Gallery’s space. Lying on the ‘back’ of the sculpture was a woman, apparently dying with laughter. An unusual sight, because as a visitor you’re supposed to view a work of art from a respectful distance. Whoever determined that it should be so, nobody really knows anymore. That is the museum code. That code is held sacred above and beyond any discussion. Or so it seems.
Roddney Tjon Poen Gie (Paramaribo, 1962) is a serious artist, but he doesn’t seem to give much consideration to the code. That can be concluded from the way in which he works. Over ten years ago he made a sculpture on the water’s edge – a Chinese dragon. That sculpture consisted of pieces of scrap wood or drift wood that he found in the surrounding area and attached to existing beach poles. When he was asked some time later what remained of that artwork, he answered laconically, that certain pieces might still exist, but that due to the moisture and the heat such work was inevitably fleeting. The water was the source of inspiration, the water was then also allowed to reclaim it.
That same level-headed mentality explains why his animal sculptures always originate from existing pieces of wood. The shape of that wood determines the identity of the animal. The shape of the wood stimulates his creativity. Although he has a preference for Chinese dragons – he is partly Chinese – , most of his animals look more animal-like or more like fantasy animals, than like anything corresponding to reality. Sometimes it is the way in which he paints them that determines the association that the viewer has with it. I am under the impression that he consciously plays on, or guides, this association with his titles. This sculpture is titled ‘Zebra’, just as logical as it is illogical. Because of the black and white it is, at quick a glance, reminiscent of a zebra, but the shape is completely different from that of a zebra.
In many of his works the bright colors are what entice the viewer to delve further into them. That is not the case in this work. This work apparently invites the viewer to touch and, as can be seen in the photograph: to use as a type of climbing device.
TEXT Rob Perrée, Amsterdam, January 2015
TRANSLATION Cassandra Gummels-Relyveld
Want to see this and other work of Roddney Tjon Poen Gie ‘up close and personal’? That’s possible at Readytex Art Gallery, Steenbakkerijstraat 30, Paramaribo, Suriname, www.readytexartgallery.com. For more information about Roddney Tjon Poen Gie please visit the website http://readytexartgallery.com/roddneytjonpoengie.
Roddney Tjon Poen Gie also did an artist residency in Moengo, in 2014. He made an installation there, ‘Bagua’, inspired by Feng shui philosophy.
This edition of An Eye for Art has been sent as a RAG-mailing on March 11, 2015 and was published in Kunst en Cultuur in de Ware Tijd on March 11, 2015.
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.