Preller's image of a disembodied head in aquiline profile, with sumptuous lips and a large Egyptian-like eye, became the prototype for an extended, seminal series of works to which Space Angel firmly belongs. The left-facing profile, animated by the sleekest, almond eye and stylised teardrops, merges spectacularly with a fragment of turquoise and sunglow skull. A deep, empty eyesocket balances the composition, and the head is edged by a pharaonic beard and golden teeth.
Preller's unique motif appeared initially in a number of related intaglio works such as Angel of the Lord (1969) and Angel King (1971), while in 1970 the same image was transfigured in Two Angels [Figure 1]. The latter work, a large, square oil painting of heads floating in space, remains in the Pretoria Art Museum.
Space Angel shows Preller exploring the translation of this archaic or heiratic head into yet another technique; he used high relief gesso built up in a Tachist manner, and then over-painted to simulate an opulant and textured surface. The piece is testament to Preller’s lifelong and ongoing process of working and reworking images that were significant to his iconographical vocabulary, with each version systematically attempting to release a new and nuanced reading of his original, iconic, and prototypical image.
Strauss & Co, Johannesburg, 7 November 2016, lot 234.