The poppy is Sultan’s flower of choice, a signature that’s quickly evident at his latest show
at Helsinki’s Galerie Forsblom
. Not that you’d immediately recognize the poppy, drained as it is of its cheerful red hue, portrayed instead in oppressive black. Herein lies the visual interest of Sultan’s work. By eliminating the familiar texture and color of his subject, Sultan pushes the viewer to consider its shape and weight, geometry and symmetry. The flower that dominates Button Down Modernism 1921
(2014), for example, is heavy, almost imposing; the petals are black, and even the stamen is rendered in a dark charcoal gray. The eye is drawn to the background, a geometric modernist composition of large orange, blue, gray, and black rectangles. Button Down Boogie Woogie Sept 20
is a variation on the same idea, but clearly appropriates Piet Mondrian
’s iconic Broadway Boogie Woogie
(1942-43) as its background. Herringbone and Black Buttons July 11
(2014), on the other hand, is a more playful—and more literal—pattern of button-like black poppies set against a sky-blue-and-white herringbone background. The effect is stylish, the look bordering on retro. These pieces are, in other words, a far cry from a traditional painting of a table-top vase of colorful flowers.