SUDJANA KERTON (INDONESIA, 1922-1994)
SUDJANA KERTON (INDONESIA, 1922-1994)

Bullfight

Details
SUDJANA KERTON (INDONESIA, 1922-1994)
Bullfight
signed 'S. Kerton' (lower right)
oil on canvas
103 x 156 cm.(40 1/2 x 61 3/8 in.)

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Annie Lee
Annie Lee

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Lot Essay

The bullfighter and the bull, glaring at each other on a misty blood-red field in a packed arena. Mid-sixties Mexico. The roar of the crowd, the dust, sweat, and the sound of the bull snorting in his rage and defiance as his hooves dig into the ground, and the arrogant and prideful young bullfighter confidently staring him down... when I was a young child these were the things I could almost see, hear and feel when I gazed, fascinated, at this scene that my father painted after returning from a trip to Mexico, obviously inspired by the sights and sounds of what he found there. Vivid, bright colors found in local fruit and textiles and the passion and energy of the Mexican people and their music, along with the heat, earthiness and simplicity of life experienced there 'in the moment'—not unlike his beloved Indonesia—must have been stimulating and a welcome change after spending a few stark, freezing winters in Europe and New York. He was eager to put brush to canvas and paint these exhilarating images and the bold radiant colors that emerged from then on became a part of his permanent palette. He was particularly impressed with and curious about Mexico's fascination with the bullfight, and this was one of the highlights of his trip. Once back in New York, he quickly got to work on his paintings. The Bullfighter was one of them and it was my favorite. A fairly large piece that was striking and visually dominated any room it was in, it stirred and fueled the imagination of my young self and I dreamt of one day making the journey to faraway lands and exotic places to soak up local flavour like this. The seed and spirit of adventure grew in me from the moment I set eyes on this painting, took root, and has been there ever since.

I can't ever remember a time when Bullfight (Lot 502) was not a part of my everyday life. Like a good friend it was always there, silently observing all the milestones made in a lifelong journey, because I did eventually wind up traveling to exotic destinations and saw the world through my father's eyes, perhaps because of this painting's tantalizing influence and the impression it made on a young girl. It made the trip from New York to San Francisco and then on to Hawai'i, where it took center stage and became somewhat of a celebrity - being featured in my father's first solo exhibition in the United States; and then hanging on the walls of my Hawai'i home, it was a constant magnet for many passionate, vigorous and philosophical conversations that took place in its presence. The vision of the lone proud bullfighter, locked into a frozen stance with an angry and equally proud bull stayed with me even as the years went by. And as I grew up, and my awareness expanded, I realized that I wasn't quite sure who I was rooting more for—the bull or the bullfighter. Both were noble, brave and strong. And it did not escape my observation that the bull was not outwardly or mortally wounded, nor was the bullfighter, so they were squaring off as two who were equally matched at the same time. This image became somewhat of an allegory for many challenges that I would encounter over the years, a symbol of strength and domination and one that I would often reflect upon; two combatants with an equal desire to win, the struggle and the will to survive no matter what, the question of authority and who really holds dominion and power over us, and the circle of life that often gets played out in a place that is not pretty and may lack elegance but not eloquence; someone may get hurt, but there is always the promise of hope. To many, this painting will appear to be what it is on the surface: A bullfight. But it is much more than that. My father oftentimes presented his philosophy in this way, using strong visceral imagery in his paintings to convey his outlook on life: Blood will be spilt as we are human and always coming and going in this world, and we are all fighting an internal battle with something or someone. We continue on, because we must.

Christie's is grateful to Ms Marti Kerton, daughter of the late Sudjana Kerton, for her contribution to this catalogue entry.

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