The Garden of Eden signed 'SF Pinker' (upper left) oil on composite board 114.3 x 96.2cm (45 x 37 7/8in). unframed
PROVENANCE: Gifted by the artist to the current owner in 1967
Born in South West Africa, now Namibia, Stanley Pinker studied art under Maurice van Essche in Cape Town. Van Essche himself studied under Matisse, sketching an artistic lineage that connects Pinker directly to the vocabulary of European modernism, communicated with such assurance in his paintings.
Pinker spent many years in Europe after his studies, absorbing the varied cultural stimuli it offered. Despite a brief visit to Cape Town in 1954 to hold his first exhibition, it was only in 1964 that he returned permanently to South Africa. Here the artist discovered an abiding sense of identification with the country, which he initially channelled into landscape painting. He soon began populating his landscapes, however, in an attempt to explore the socio-political complexities of his surroundings. Known for his incisive and allusive wit, Pinker would also continue to develop the distinctive spatial qualities for which his work is known.
In The Garden of Eden, Pinker provides the viewer with a pared down, Cubist-inspired Adam and Eve who lock eyes sharply above an abundance of sensuous floral forms. At first glance, this appears an idyllic scene, but the reference to the Garden of Eden locates the viewer in an uncomfortable position of dramatic irony; the awareness of a loss which is both imminent and irretrievable. An ambience poised between darkness and light, innocence and knowledge, is invoked by the starkly contrasting background colours. As the artist relates in an interview with Michael Stevenson: "Essentially the flat background does the footwork in my paintings; it is usually a base colour, or colours, and it sets the mood... In each case it is with the background that it all begins. It is my first concern, long before I start with the detail. The components of the imagery then assert themselves on the flat space in terms of their shape, line and colour".
The subjects and objects recontextualised in this latter-day paradise become what curator of the South African National Gallery (which boasts several Pinkers in its collection), Hayden Proud, refers to as "the dramatis personae of his art. Populating the shallow stage of his format, they become suspended in a pictorial realm of studied whimsy, interlocking and fusing to become potent metaphors".
In 1969, Pinker was appointed as a lecturer at the Michaelis School of Fine Art in Cape Town, where he inspired several generations of young painters, including internationally acclaimed artists, such as Marlene Dumas.
BIBLIOGRAPHY H. Proud, 'Reflection on the Art of Stanley Pinker', Stanley Pinker, (Cape Town, 2004) M. Stevenson, 'Interview with Stanley Pinker', Stanley Pinker, (Cape Town, 2004)