The artwork Past and Present by the artist Robert Holmene (1969) is part of Nuuk Art Museums collection. The artwork is from 2008 and made in several versions. One is exhibited in Ilulissat Art Museum.
Past and Present depicts a drum dancer from the waist up painted as a white silhouette on a black ground. Up close you notice that the black and white motive is not painted on a plain canvas, but onto bits and pieces from computers sticking out of the canvas.
For a number of years Robert Holmene worked at Air Greenland. Here he collected the bits and pieces from scrapped computers. All these bits and pieces are screwed onto a chipboard from a box which contained sling-gear for a helicopter.
Robert Holmene got the idea for Past and Present back in 1994. Originally he wanted the background to consist only of flat computer bits and a landscape like one of Emanuel A. Petersen – a Danish painter who painted a lot of romantic paintings of Greenland from the 1920s to the 1940s – to be the motive. Instead bits and pieces were arranged to fit together. The motive of the drum dancer Holmene found on the site arktiskebilleder.dk – a site not existing anymore – a picture of a drum dancer named Maratse from East Greenland.
Even though it seems as if the white silhouette is on top of the black, Holmene has actually painted it the other way round. The bits and pieces on the chipboard were first painted white and then the black was added.
The drumdancer is a traditional motive in Greenlandic art. Amongst Nuuk Art Museum’s collection are several figurines of drum dancers in different postures. In Past and Present Holmene puts the known Greenlandic motive of a drum dancer on a computer background – to some looking like a city – and thereby creates a new meaning. A modern world interlinked wtih the traditional world.
Maybe Past and Present frames questions like how do the drum dancer and the tradition belong in our modern world? Or maybe, like a couple of students visiting the museum said, that even though we are modern with computers, technology and big cities we are still part of a tradition and carries it with us.
Robert Holmene has another three works of art in Nuuk Art Museum’s collection. Three tupilaks carved out of reindeer antlers. Holmene began his artistic career carving tupilaks encouraged by Svend Junge, the founder of Nuuk Art Museum. Robert Holmene is also a satire cartoonist, drawing the cartoon Buaarsikkut and was part of Nuuk Art Museums exhibition Greenland’s Satire Drawings.