Stanley Pinker’s Girl in Sunglasses delights us with its formal innovations as much as with its sheer, sassy presence. Such technical bravado and sense of style are only possible in the hands of a consummate artist with an assured understanding of the formal and expressive possibilities of painting.
In his forward to the artist’s monograph South African National Gallery curator, Hayden Proud, points out that Stanley Pinker was one of the few South African painters returning from Europe with a thorough understanding of the language of Modernism in painting – ‘of dealing intelligently with such concerns as the integrity of the picture plane, shallow pictorial space, open compositional modes and the notion of colour and texture as primary, independently expressive elements’.1
The painting retains a fresh contemporaneity despite having been painted years ago. Strong colour contrasts, dramatic diagonals and the rhythmic repetition of circular spectacles all animate the format to produce a portrait like no other. And yet there’s a remarkable universality to this image – she could be an evocation of Hugh Masekela’s jazzy ‘African Woman’, ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ or even a young rollerblader on Sunset Boulevard.
1. Hayden Proud, ‘A reflection on the art of Stanley Pinker’ in Michael Stevenson, Stanley Pinker, Michael Stevenson, Cape Town, 2004, page 8