The jolly naked clown wearing a hat resembles Mercury: the messenger of the gods. The work is by the British artist Thom Puckey, who has lived and worked as a sculptor and teacher in the Netherlands since 1978. Puckey returned to figuration during a period when sculpture was dominated by abstraction. For this reason his work fits well among the other sculptures of the ‘Coolsingel ensemble’ such as Monsieur Jacques by Wenckebach.
Although figurative art appears at first sight to be easy to understand, Puckey’s sculptures are rather more mysterious. The elements are certainly recognisable, but are often combined in an intriguing manner. The title of this work The Husband of the Doll seems to refer to a fairy tale or a children’s story. The husband certainly has a comic-strip quality, but Puckey also refers to the history of sculpture. Compare the sculpture with Degas’ Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, Eros at Piccadilly Circus in London and Mercury by Giambologna. By combining the elegant pose with the face of a clown, he creates a perverse image. The naturalistic body is surmounted by an ugly caricature-like head with a sad look. Yet traditional sculptor’s craft is required to keep the sculpture in balance. Skill, humour, art-historical tradition and alienation go hand in hand. (DvT)