by Claire Feely
Shawn Kuruneru’s black-and-white portraits of figures, busts, and faces convey a slick, cold feeling of anonymity. Their visual constructs, the descriptions of muscle and hair, are anything but distant, but through the artist’s personal paths in aesthetic, they have become clean, graphic, wiping away much human recognition. In the artist’s act of portraying an individual, he has ironically come to offer a faceless outline of the impersonal insides.
Kuruneru’s portraits often appear as a display of something aloof, something incapable of conversing with our own communicative expressions, due in part to his detached aesthetics, and the image sources as well. Coming from magazines, album covers, newspapers, and comics, these images are often commercial, stereotypical stances and gestures that read as being posed. Regardless of the stiff posture and robotic mark making, there is a moment of breath in these drawings, perhaps found in the dramatic highlights and shadows of these forms. With such heightened lights and recessed shadows, there comes to surface a strong sense of movement, energy, and life. The organic meandering of the shapes found within these descriptions tells of a living, bodily sensation. While having strong visual qualities that connect more closely with the inanimate, Kuruneru finds subtle nuances that simultaneously permit him to translate to the viewer a hesitant, estranged affinity.
Some of Kuruneru’s recent work includes a series of his characteristic black-and-white, ballpoint drawings where the subjects, instead of being portraits and figures, are the silhouettes of Mickey Mouse. Here the constructs of muscle and hair begin to take on a new connotation. These components, in combination with bottles of milk used as bases in the physical support of these drawings, sway the audience to understand an underlying theme of growth. As Kuruneru has explained, the milk bottles come into frame as a personal reference to the dairy farm his grandparents had in Hong Kong during the 1960s. In conjunction with Mickey Mouse, a character and figure of childhood imagination, there develops a clear relationship between the imagery that translates into a strong correlation of imagination, and that of nourishment and growth being dependent on each other.
Cantorage (Cantonese Rage) is a performance event by Shawn Kuruneru comprised of cold Canadian tea and 1960’s Cantopop music.
hand engraved stainless steel pot 2010
ink on paper mounted on board
14 x 11 inches
A video reinterpretation made by
Shawn Kuruneru 2010
from the1967 Hong Kong film
I Love A Go-Go
starring Nancy Sit