Elephant Magazine issue 26. Spring 2016
Art for Post-Capitalists, by Charlotte Jansen
The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down’, Doris A. Day, Gallery 1
21st March 2015– 7th April 2015
Preview 20th March, 6-9pm
Doris A. Day, Kati Heck, Kostas Tsolis
“A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.” '
Gallery 1 and 2
The Agency presents the curated group exhibition “A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead”, featuring painters Doris A Day (GB), Kati Heck (DE) and Kostas Tsolis (GR).
The exhibition looks at painting in the digital age by bringing together three artists who make use of narrative whilst also applying techniques of omission and obliteration. Through their conscious interventions (with very divergent approaches) they circumvent the discussion about the found image and the photographic quotation as well as the notion of genre altogether. The exhibition reflects on the fact that narrative, literary or visual, remains paramount in the post-digital age. The form has changed trough trans-medial dissemination into a more fragmentary presence with many tangents, which in turn influences the way painting reflects this.
The title reminds of the narrative thread of Graham Greene’s “ the End of the Affair”, in which the end of the affair is the beginning of the story. Seeking to unearth a woman’s secret love life an ex-lover and her husband realise too late that she made a promise to a higher power. In this exhibition the artist assumes the role of that power, which changes the course of things or our perception respectively. In jest and (literally) through the blinds the ballad of human behaviour unfolds. The choice of the outcome seems arbitrary/ sur-real or un-real – the narrative however resonates much further.
Questions of authentication, games with authority and the manufacture of truth (and justice) are the currency all three artists are colliding with. Without proposing a theme or a coherence Heck’s girl protagonists/ multiple herselfs are commenting on the abuse of the libertine by society/the art system, Day’s works represent controversial personae in the moment of being laid bare in a psychological standoff - Kim Jon-un as a child learning from his mother, Pistorius during his trial, himself as Doris Day or as Bugs Bunny- and Tsolis reworks historical events as political thrillers observed from the off as he also demonstrates in the current group show” No Country for Young Men” at Bozar, Brussels , curated by Katarina Gregos. A kind of portraiture / story is a key to reading the works and yet the artists fragment the portraits and narratives by formal means. The depiction of a recognisable self, hero, prisoner of conscience or the infamous are coincidental. The partial dispensation with form can be understood as the gesture of the post-digital painter.
Kati Heck ( b. 1979), lives and works in Antwerp. Selected recent exhibitions include KOPF=Kopfnuss, CAC Malaga (2013), Tim van Laere Gallery (2011 and 2014)( both solo), Painters’ Painter, Saatchi Gallery ( 2012), CADAVRE EXQUIS. A FIGURE OF PAINTING, LLS 387, Antwerp ( 2013) and Gsuffa, der eiserne Pomoment, Mary Boone Gallery, NYC in 2008 ( solo). The Agency first showed her work in 2006.
Doris A. Day (b. 1982), lives and works in London. Recent exhibitions include On/Off, Espace Commines Paris (2011), Same Heads Gallery Berlin (2012) The Toolshed, Froome (2013, solo), Duchamp Festival, HerneBay (2013). He was long-listed for the John Moores Prize 2014.
Kostas Tsolis (b. 1964) lives and works in Athens, Recent exhibitions include, Michael Cacoyiannis Foundation (2011), The Jewish Museum, Thessaloniki (2011), Newtopia at City Museum of Mechelen, Belgium (2012), The National Theater, Athens (2013, solo), Agora: the 4th Athens Biennial (2013), and his work is currently included in "No Country for Young Men" curated by Katerina Gregos at BOZAR in Brussels, through August 3.
Doris A. Day talking with Christopher Bucklow, Frome, 20th September 2012
C. Choices are very significant, very telling of the individual making the choice... Why Bacon, for you?
D. I don't know... it just seemed like an enormous challenge...
C. But there are plenty of artists who would be big challenges. Why him?
D. There's a harmonious beauty in the way he perceived the body. I feel that it's more real than any other kind of portraiture.
C. Like him, you seem to be interested in suggesting other things than external appearance.
D. Yes, though my primary source is British portraiture - looking back at Reynolds, Lawrence, Gainsborough - but I was looking more... not at actual representation, more of a psychological representation and the way that if you remember someone that you met, you don't remember particular features, you remember fleeting things.
C. Aside from physical appearance?
D. Yes, aside from an eye, an ear... I just wanted to get the fleeting instance of memory.
C. Picasso does it, ...I suppose anyone who distorts the figure...
D. Yes but I don't find it believable in Picasso. It's like a painting of another picture, whereas Bacon was almost turning something inside out and pressing it onto the canvas, like an imprint of something that's real.
C. So that gets us closer to why you honed in on Bacon, and that's an interesting choice you've made. But what about the people, in the portraits? I saw the painting of the old bald man with the moustache and the glittering colour on the left side of his face and I thought, "Is that H. G. Wells or J. P. Morgan?"
D. Yes... it's J.P Morgan. You got the reference. I saw that photograph...
C. The Steichen photograph of around 1900...
D. It's a harrowing powerful image.
C. So why J.P.? I know we choose things and ninety percent of the time we have no access to knowledge of our motives....
D. I don't know. I don't want the reference to be explicit... to bankers, the present economic climate...
C. I suppose most people wouldn't recognize him anyway, my knowing him was just chance. It's not important. Actually, now I come to think of it, what he reminds me of is that Velazquez of the Pope that Bacon obsessed about... a bully... D. He's got a grip on something, ballasting himself down, and you interpret the chair arm he's got hold of in the photograph, as a dagger. It's a powerful image.
C. He's an archetype. A powerful male.
But I was concentrating on the 'abstract' side of his face, the jewel-box of non-representational colour. It felt like that star-cluster, the Pleiades... the Pleiades in a suit and tie... It's an interesting juxtaposition....
D. It was the urge to let the paint be the flesh, not represent it, but be it. And like actually smearing paint on this guy's face.
C. If that's a psychological portrait... if that's psyche - that side of the face... it's like ectoplasm... but can you say anything about why that form incarnated with that face?
D. It's a new series.... I don't know. I suppose it's not the psyche of J.P. Morgan. It's my psyche, projected. Maybe it's my reaction to him rather than his actual... it's hard to say... it's the beginning of a series.
C. What about the erasing, in some of the other pictures, you are clearly removing paint from the whole face? The effect it leaves is like surging liquid... and you use it as the portrait...
D. When I think about panic or fear... I feel like the blood running out of the face. It's a psychological reaction. That's how I would portray panic... I suppose it's like the essence of Bacon's Popes.
C. But the erasing...
D. It's just a natural thing, being the artist and wanting to represent something you want to say, and when it fails, it's just natural to get a palette knife and scrape it off. And sometimes those inadvertent marks left behind are the most beautiful things about it.
C. Well there are two sides to it... the resonance of the act of erasure, it has a meaning.... But then you get something, something else, from the losing something... You get something unwilled...
D. Uncontrived, yes. A face can be looking to the right and when you scrape it off, what remains appears like it was looking to the left. Something you don't expect....
C. We are not always comfortable with will. The erasing leaves things that feel inevitable.
D. You can set up these mistakes though. You can contrive your accidents. Though I'm more of an irrational; more gung-ho, anarchic.
C. What about your colour? It's very vibrant in places...
D. An abstract series I'd done before this... there the colour was almost too strong, almost comical. In this new series I wanted to integrate that palette into the portraits, to see where they collided.
C. In the abstract.... 'passages', is that a good word? ...
C. Yes, a much better word... the colour is very energized.
D. In the last series it was very jarring. But I wanted to take it away from being satire.
C. Satire never occurs to me here.
D. Good. I'm trying to get away from it.
C. It's interesting... the gravity of why something sits... unsatirically... why something feels right, authentic... this is very telling of an artist's motives and nature... So what I'm seeing is a serious and beautiful representation of psychic reality. And that's also what I get out of Bacon.
D. Yes, and Bacon never thought of his portraits as distorted.
C. One last question... Freud... you use him in the title to this series. Should we pay attention to that?
D. No, ....it's a Charlie Mingus track. The title seems weighted, but the more you think about it, the less you get from it. It's quite apt for the beginning of a series.
September - October, 2012
The Toolshed Gallery, Frome
Doris A.Day, A Project of Anxiety Gallery 2,
25th Feb - 24th March 2012
The Agency is pleased to present Londoner Doris A. Day (born 1982) with his second solo exhibition. After a successful debut show Day chose to withdraw into his studio to embark on a series of studies with the aim of capturing the spirit of Francis Bacon’s iconic “Screaming Pope”. Baconhimself described the ‘Pope’ as an incomplete work, one, for which he created studies throughout the Nineteen Fifties and Sixties. It was thisprocess, which led to Day experimenting almost performatively on finding an essence of the ‘Pope’, which would be authentic to him. The works do not aspire to copy or supercede, but to extract an essential gesture from the Bacon Studies, simply leading to a further set of studies. The emphasis for Day is not on completeness but on continuance, an almost obsessive and haunting process of retracing a motive mechanically and mentally until it separates from the original enough to be a thing unto itself and yet bears close resemblance. The balance between these two poles is one of discomfort and precariousness. Day sets himself up to be the tightrope walker, tackling an impossibly huge subject matter. But somehow he succeeds, since the discomfort of the incomplete canvas becomes the image in itself. Bacon’s studies for Pope Innocence X were his attempt to comeclose to the essence of Velázquez’ 1650 portrait. Bacon painted over 45 versions of Velázquez’ work, without looking at the original which influenceda large proportion of his oeuvre. For Bacon it was a new approach to a representational truth, which he in turn had taken on from Picasso’s re•working of works by Grunewald and Velázquez for example.
For Doris Day the re•iteration without the use of copies or projected images has become a Zen exercise of finding a truth in the constant re•enactment itself without the aim of arriving at the ultimate image. The five works presented are a selection of his continuing variations on thesubject. Installed as a coherent group on coloured walls they present a clear stylistic direction with a common departure point.