When I visited Shawn Kuruneru's studio in early December we looked at the works that he planned to include in his upcoming exhibition and illustrated in this book. Specifically a series of nine small works all originating from one larger canvas and made using ink beads (a mixture of dried couscous pebbles soaked in india ink) applied wet to the surface of the canvas, left to dry and then scrapped away. This larger work was then cut into nine pieces, some of which he drew into and some left alone. Shawn explains that the ink beads are a result of simplifying his process and looking closely at the material components in his drawings: ink and surface. The process with the beads eliminates the attention paid to the artist's hand, specifically the traditional extensions of the hand like a brush or pen. The idea of taking apart an image and reducing the process of drawing is something that Shawn is constantly redefining. These works could be microscopic slides from previous works that have been fragmented, manipulated, repeated and dissolved.
The resulting, nine small works relate to each other but they do not feel like puzzle pieces; the cropping of the intimate works highlight the very different marks left by the beads and create stand alone nuanced compositions. Some patches mimic the dense cross-hatching of early Francis Bacon landscapes, others remind me of drippy leftovers from a spray can or ink pot, still others look like a fine dust of soot on the canvas. They are traces left over from a process that we cannot quite pinpoint and therefore we step up and look closer. Up close there is a collision of Shawn's fine handwork that I have come to expect and admire with thick and cracked textures and awkwardly re stretched corners. The palette is harsh and there seems to be a face-off going on between lemon yellow straight from the tube with jet black ink on stark white canvas. The pure, undiluted colours tell us something about the process, they are applied directly to the surface without mixing or fiddling around. Combined with the black and white the yellow becomes the light source, but with an artificial quality, like a fluorescent highlighter or the tube lighting in a studio.
Looking at the works, I am reminded of two of Shawn's previous series, one of detailed sonogram drawings and one with dot drawings that all had virgin in the title. This series references the mark making of the others but it reveals more flaws, process and roughness. While the previous two series dealt with the passage of time in a grander narrative scale, this new series is more specific and zoomed in. These works directly convey a series of actions and decisions. His works are able to tell stories about what its like to look at the things he looks at and be in his studio.
-Katie Lyle 2013