Fifteenth century Dutch women engaged in chores are seen across many of Susanne Husemann’s paintings. One is fixing another woman’s scarf, another playing a violin while yet another sits on a food-laden table.
Husemann’s inspiration is Jan Vermeer, a 15th century Dutch artist who specialises in scenes of domestic middle class life.
“I have let my creative abilities bring a vibrant and modern-day feel,” she said of her Vermeer inspired pieces.
Allegory of Painting is a 33-piece exhibition which opened at Rohtas 2 on Thursday. Fifteen of the works are oil on cardboard, with stickers and tape, four are on canvas and 14 on wood. The exhibit will run till June 2.
A painting of a young girl playing the violin on a roughly cut out cardboard has a red tape vertically applied and the time of shipment. The piece, also Husemann’s personal favourite, received much admiration from the gallery guests at the opening.
The artist said without the red tape and the date the painting would lack character. “It is like reincarnating a 500-year-old painting. It’s like bringing an antique into the modern world,” she said of her attempt to replicate the work with abstract touches on modern mediums like cardboard and wood.
“Cardboard takes a long time to dry with oil paints. Wood is a tough medium as you need high concentration to produce work on it,” she said. She said she had been working on the pieces exhibited for the past two years.
The paintings are priced between Rs21,000 and Rs162,000.
Vermeer, Husemann said was adept in handling effects and using bright colours in his work. “Despite his genius, he remains an understated artist. I had used Jan’s pictures but have made it look more abstract,” she said. The art inspired by Vermeer is “an amalgamation of the abstract and the concrete,” she added.
Quddus Mirza, an artist and art critic, found the use of cardboard and wood paradoxical.
“As Vermeer has very few paintings to his credit, his work is considered precious. Husemann has used very mundane mediums such as cardboard and wood, making her work more approachable,” he said. He said, “The paintings were particularly refreshing as artists in Pakistan never apply their own touches using another artist’s work.”
“I see it as a creative comment on the European history of art. She has definitely set a very expressive benchmark by maneuvering oil cleverly on mediums as sensitive as cardboard and wood.”
Husemann displayed her work at Islamabad’s Namak Gallery two weeks ago and will display next month in Karachi. The show at Rohtas 2 ends June 2.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 25th, 2012.