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Whilst situated in a representational idiom, Stanley Pinker’s painting subverts the physical constraints of real life through his use of abstraction. Notably in the present example we see the seemingly prosaic play of children magnified and elevated in an otherwise ordinary landscape.
A student of Maurice van Essche and the Continental School during the mid 1950s, Pinker would spend the next decade in Europe, between England and France. Returning to South Africa in 1964 with a painterly vocabulary that spanned the width of the Renaissance all the way through to Post-War Modernism, Esmé Berman suggests that there is a “subtle, private transformation of reality which occurs” in Pinker’s painting. She continues “although he retains faith in figurative imagery, Pinker’s intention is to make deeper, more cryptic observations about experience than can be conveyed in the factual description of natural appearances. Therefore he attempts to create a new psychological dimension with his canvasses by distorting space and recomposing elements of observable reality within the new environment.”1
JOKO (Hoop Rolling) illustrates this “new psychological environment” as Pinker incorporates multiple views into a single two dimensional space. Whilst the centre of our attention is dominated by the carefree play of a young girl and boy rolling hoops, we glimpse a consistent architectural trope of Pinker’s oeuvre in the distance, a lone house in an otherwise unoccupied landscape.
Perhaps a local store or a tearoom, indicated by the printed letters for JOKO tea emblazoned on the side, Pinker manages to draw the viewer into that environment by his recurring use of frames within frames. As the children play in the background, the viewer’s imagination is allowed to wander. Are we watching from inside the canvas through a window or are we part of the external world, looking in?
Not satisfied with the constraints of a square canvas, Pinker would often add elements to his frames to further suggest a break with ordinary ways of looking and creating. In this instance an oval piece of sky protrudes from the pediment of the building, creating an enduring sense of space in an otherwise contained composition.
1. Esmé Berman (1970) Art & Artists of South Africa: An illustrated bibliographical
The Professor Leon Strydom Collection.