Claudette Schreuders' carved and painted figures are quiet and understated yet powerful presences. They frequently embody archetypal roles that are played out in our relationships with others on an everyday basis. They are richly metaphoric, yet recognisably individual. In Schreuders' most recent group of sculptures, titled The Fall, the characters find their origins or prototypes in the Biblical story of Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden, but enact the dynamics of relationships as we all experience them. Among these figures is Paradise, a woman on whose outstretched arm is perched a kingfisher, symbolic of the unfettered spirit.
Birds appear again in Schreuders' Public Figure, but this time the black starlings perched on the head, shoulder and foot suggest that this is not sculpture of a woman but a representation of a statue. The work borrows its pose from a Greek kouros statue (dating from between 600 and 500 BC) which Schreuders saw recently in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Like kouroi (and their female counterparts, korai) Public Figure is depicted full frontal, arms hanging by her sides, with one leg positioned slightly in front of the other, standing on a plinth.
Schreuders' work in general draws on a range of artistic traditions, West African colon figures, Central African nkisi fetishes, South American devotional sculptures and medieval religious etchings among them. Her sources tend to share a spiritual dimension, and it is inevitably the interior life of a particular figure that Schreuders is concerned to show. Public Figure incorporates the kouros - with its functions of devotional offering and grave marker - into her lexicon while also referring to the subsequent Western artistic tradition of public figurative sculpture as a commemorative form (a tradition to which she has contributed with her sculptures of South African Nobel Peace Prize recipients at Cape Town's V&A Waterfront). At the same time as Schreuders acknowledges art history as a rich repository of source material available for reuse and reinterpretation, Public Figure also operates on a more intimate level, as a comment on the disjuncture that exists between our private selves, our inner lives, and the more constrained selves that we present in public.
© 2007 Michael Stevenson. All rights reserved.