In praise of shadows
Galerie Gabriel Rolt is proud to announce the group exhibition IN PRAISE OF SHADOWS with recent works by Marijn Akkermans, Athanasios Argianas, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Desiree Dolron and Dawn Mellor.
The title and theme of this exhibition derive from an essay published in 1933 by the Japanese writer Junichiro Tanizuki. Galerie Gabriel Rolt collects five international artists whose work relates to the matters addressed by ‘In Praise of Shadows’.
Tanizuki appreciated things understated and natural, nuanced and delicate. He was especially enthralled by the use of shadows and diffused, natural light to create harmonious and sympathetic interiors. The essay describes the clash between the shadows of traditional Japanese spaces and the dazzling light of the modern age. The west, in its pursuit of progress, is presented as continuously searching for light and clarity. ‘In Praise of Shadows’ argued that Japan was emulating the west, at the cost of their own tradition and character, seeking perceived notions of western development and enlightenment.
The artists in this show are all ‘western’ artists. Their works draw from their own aesthetic, social and political surroundings. But definitions of east and west are less discernible today. Media, technology and communication have made the world more connected than ever. And, in keeping with Tanizuki’s argument, they have smothered and warped many traditions and cultures which previously defined countries.
An involvement in mass media, a willingness to represent the current society and a participation with the history of art connects the artists. Each shares a restless, speculative pursuit of capturing ‘shadows’ in a work of art – the abstract, the intangible or the immaterial.
The British painter Dawn Mellor’s recent works have cast Dorothy – that loaded symbol and star of The Wizard of Oz – in differing incongruous roles, from war prisoner to gay fundamentalist. In ‘Giant Dorothy’ (2008) Mellor positions Dorothy as Goya’s Colossus. She is portrayed as a giant - hideous and two-faced - looming over a crowded, dystopic landscape. Dorothy is clutching (or perhaps trying to reach inside) a bubble that holds her Kansas home. Around her head glows hysterical extremist text. Mellor is subverting our associations of a beloved character and also contrasting this hopeful, American symbol against the frenzied and violent surroundings. Her manic, densely-worked technique tramples conventions as she mixes and matches subjects, techniques and forms within a single canvas.
Marijn Akkermans similarly transports innocent and fairytale ingredients into the sinister and nightmarish. His delicate ink drawings of seemingly innocuous subjects, usually stereotypes like family portraits or pets, recall Victorian children’s illustration. The results, however, are fantastical and sinister, loaded with narrative possibilities. Recent works have seen Akkermans turn the volume up on his previous technique, developing richer and more outrageous images, as well as juggling the rapid movement within a work between the dense-and-dark and light-and-spacious areas in a stylish, sophisticated and wholly successful manner.
Desiree Dolron presents a new work for the show - one that most closely explores the ability of light and shadow to describe form and create mood. In Xteriors V (2008) a woman is shown with her back to the viewer, staring from a window. The searing white of this window dissects the image in half, creating an almost abstract composition, recalling Barnett Newman’s zips. This monumental and filmic work is part of the Xteriors series Dolron has been working on since 2001.
‘They can’t do that’ or ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ is the usual response to work by British geniuses Jake and Dinos Chapman. Here we present four of their TV drawings. Like many of their projects, TV drawings initially strike one as an inane and ridiculous idea. Watching TV is regarded as a thoughtless, passive activity and therefore to make drawings during this inattentive and distracted state might be regarded as an affront to art. One can read these works – crafted, obsessive, gestural and doodle-esque – as attempts by the artists, like so many others before them, to make automatic, unconscious and ‘true’ drawing.
Originally trained as a musician, Athanasios Argianas now works with sculpture, drawing and installation, exploring ways to translate sound and music into form. The two-part sculpture, ‘Proposals for Reading Consonants as Noise’ (2008), presents black rock-like casts clamped atop precise, metallic tripods. It exists as a cruel and mysterious showcase for the onlooker. His drawings are less severe, more sensual interpretations of music as visual art. In each, Argianas is working intuitively to render sound in a visual medium. In doing so, he attempts to make something out of nothing: to force the two very separate and different worlds of music and art to meet on his own terms.
The works of ‘In Praise of Shadows’ share an intuitive, emotive approach to their subjects. A dark and theatrical mood runs through the show, emphasized by the sombre, meditative presentation. The works are all outwardly beautiful but have a toughness and an enquiring quality.
Marijn Akkermans (1975, Nijmegen) studied at the School of Arts in Arnhem and the Dutch Art Institute in Enschede, after which he practiced a working period at Schloss Ringenberg in Germany. His work is currently also on display in the exhibition ‘XXth Century’ at the Gemeentemuseum, Den Haag. Last year, he had a solo exhibition at Galerie Karin Sachs in Munich and published his first monograph ‘Back then the World Was Bigger’ through Galerie Gabriel Rolt.
Athanasios Argianas (1975, Athens) studied under Jannis Kounellis at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf and completed an MA at Goldsmiths in 2005. Argianas’ recent solo shows have been at Max Wigram Gallery in London, The Breeder in Athens and Alessandro de March in Milan. He has twice participated in the prestigious Bloomberg New Contemporaries exhibition and last year presented an installation in Frank Gehry’s pavilion for the Serpentine Gallery.
Jake and Dinos Chapman (1966, Cheltenham and 1962, London, respectively) have worked together since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1990. They have exhibited at museums such as Tate Britain, Museum Kunst Palast Dusseldorf and PS1 New York. From their re-workings of Goya etchings and Hitler paintings to their graphic sexualized and violent sculptures, their work has often caused (and courted) public and critical controversy.
Desiree Dolron (Haarlem, 1963) has been working on different series of photo-collections since the early nineties that explore reportage, portraiture and digital technology in the medium. Dolron has had solo exhibitions at Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Foundation Corboud in Köln, Instituut Néerlandais in Paris and the Fotomuseum in Den Haag. Her work is in such collections as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Gemeentemuseum The Hague and Museo Nacional Reina Sofia in Madrid.
Dawn Mellor (Manchester, 1970) graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1996 and has gone on to become one of Britain’s leading painters. She has had solo shows at the Migros Mueum in Zurich Team Gallery in New York, Victorian Miro in London and Gallery Drantman in Brussels and participated in group exhibitions at PS1, Tate Liverpool and London’s Royal Academy. With regards to her irreverent and aggressive painting technique, as well as her themes of celebrity and obsession, Mellor’s influence can be seen on many of today’s painters.