Altoon Sultan

9 Jan 2019 – 10 Feb 2019

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In the three bodies of work in this exhibition, imagery derives from a common source: the artist’s own photographs of agricultural machinery taken at nearby farms in the rural part of Vermont where Sultan has lived since 1994. Sultan has long been attached to agriculture as a subject matter because of her interest in food production and the complex environmental issues that surround it. As an avid vegetable gardener herself, she also loves visiting farms and speaking with farmers. 
Sultan began to paint with egg tempera on parchment in 2010, inspired by an exhibition of 15th -century manuscript illuminations at the Morgan Library. While her earlier work aimed for a perceptual realism, her paintings from the past eight years have been, as she notes, “less about a perceived reality than they are about a sense of touch, of a physical reality leading to an uncanny sense of presence. What begins as a depiction of a mundane object may be transformed through an intense focus on light and form into metaphor, or into a realism that is heightened and becomes surreal.” In her newest paintings, Sultan creates simpler yet stranger compositions. Despite their small scale, Sultan’s paintings have a monumental presence through her use of a precise, linear approach to form along with finely painted surfaces and luminous color. 
The drawings in the exhibition relate to the paintings but are created using more minimal means: darks with black ink, lights with white gouache, all on hand-toned sheets of paper, each in a single color. The source imagery is more mysterious and the results are more dramatic and also more abstract. In these works, Sultan was inspired by a study of drapery on gray paper by Albrecht Dürer, recalling a technique she had used in much earlier works. 
Sultan’s bas-relief sculptures in porcelain are painted, like the drawings, in a single color. They too were inspired by art historical precedents: Ghiberti’s bronze doors as well as Persian and Middle Kingdom Egyptian sculpture. Sultan’s sculptures possess a quiet yet expressive power as light plays across the carved and sculpted surfaces. They e

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Altoon Sultan


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