The present lot formed part of a suite of five paintings in the style of Cullberg’s on-going Book Portraits series (2009-ongoing) shown at Cape Town’s Barnard Gallery in 2018. Presented in a strict grid format, the books and magazines in these paintings are drawn from various libraries and function as metonyms of people and place. This lot expanded on the informal rules of Cullberg’s series: firstly by extending the visual referent to include records, newspapers and objets d’art, and secondly by introducing a more complex, abstract ground on which these objects are floated.
The album sleeve in the top left corner is Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. II (1971), which features a photo taken at the Concert for Bangladesh in New York; reproducing the image allows Cullberg to portray the human figure by proxy. Much like the British-American photorealist painter Malcolm Morley, Cullberg is interested in precision, clarity, dispassion and banality; and, like Morley, he is also ambiguous about pop art. “I use some of its methods, it may seem, like collages and backgrounds with superimposed imagery, but in my work it is important that the image is hand made … To spend two or three days attempting to render a consumer object makes you aware that someone laboured over it.”1
1. Interview with artist at his studio in Woodstock, 27 July, 2018.