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John Puhiatau Pule (b.1962)
John Puhiatau Pule (b.1962)

Untitled (Basel, 2005)

Details
John Puhiatau Pule (b.1962)
Untitled (Basel, 2005)
signed and dated 'John Pule 2005 Basel' (lower centre)
oil, pen and ink on canvas
47 ¼ x 39 3/8in. (120 x 100cm.)
Exhibited
Zurich, Galerie Römerapotheke, John Puhiatau Pule, Aug.-Oct. 2005 (illustrated in the unpaginated exhibition catalogue).

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Nicholas Lambourn
Nicholas Lambourn

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Lot Essay

This and the following lot date to the Niue-born New Zealand artist's Römerapotheke Art Residency in Basel, Switzerland in 2005. Here in this first canvas, religious motifs, notably the pink sandstone Basel Minster, Basel's gothic-style protestant cathedral, and Christ at Calvary set the tone: these little penned scenes, along with decapitated heads of humans and beasts, variously sit on, hang from, or bridge the artist's trellis of vines and clouds. These clouds and vines are red and pink, presumably prompted by the soft hue of the cathedral's pink sandstone. There is some blood-red splatter and black penwork: the colour scheme of blood red, soft reds and blacks in harmony with the theme of mortal violence that runs all over the canvas. The companion picture (lot 24) sees more Christian imagery (a scene of crucifixion, and the Deposition), more blood red splatter, various decapitated heads, a hillside town bombed ('kaboom') and a screaming head (à la Guernica), figures climbing a staircase through one of the vines towards a red cloud, and a dead bird suspended from a red sun on the horizon, by a sign for Niue. More of the artist's Pacific roots register here, with a large fish held up by Lilliputian figures bridging two red clouds. Both of these pictures see the artist painting in one of the heartlands of the Protestant Reformation, picturing the remarkably similar iconoclasm of his contemporary world in 2005, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and the Gulf War. For the Niue-born Pule, this iconoclasm reminds constantly of the morbidity of his native Pacific culture in the wake of European voyaging.

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