Dittrich & Schlechtriem is pleased to present our third solo exhibition with Andrej Dúbravský, titled Potential Wasted. In spanning representation, abstraction, landscape, and queer figuration, Dúbravský’s painting is ripe with art-historical references from Paul Klee to Helen Frankenthaler.
With this most recent series of oil and pastel paintings on canvas, inspired by a rural perspective and the organic garden he maintains in Rastislavice, Slovakia, Dúbravský now confronts timely issues of agriculture, industry, and global climate politics. In Potential Wasted, the viewer faces a variety of images, including portraits of caterpillars and young men, industrial Slovakian landscapes populated with bathers, and oddly modified tree fruits with human features.
“[Dúbravský‘s] paintings articulate his reflections in empathetic yet unsparing studies of the environment and its devastation, of man and nature. Born in Bratislava in 1987, Dúbravský lives in the country-side, some sixty miles outside the Slovakian capital. |…] Dúbravský’s off-canvas activities are so closely inter-twined with his work that it is hard to tell whether growing plants and raising animals on his land are merely recreational pursuits or maybe part and parcel of his creative practice. They certainly make the artist alert to changes in the environment that urbanites are much slower to pick up on. For example, he will notice when certain butterflies no longer flit about in his garden, where he also paints, ousted by an invasion of previously unseen caterpillars native to more southerly regions.
Caterpillars, captured in larger-than-life portraits, are a recurrent motif in Dúbravský’s work. Unnatural washed-out colors and razor-sharp hairs lend the larvae a repugnant air of toxicity; they are luminous, throbbing and beaming like radioactive material or influenza virus seen through a microscope. In some instances, however, Dúbravský has given them faces, crediting them with a will of their own and showing them as vulnerable creatures.
Dúbravský has an astute eye for the world around him, and not just his garden and the hamlet of eight hundred souls where he lives. The factories and fuming smokestacks that roll past on his regular train trips to Bratislava likewise make their mark on the raw canvases that are the artist’s preferred support medium. Dúbravský renders them in a spare visual idiom, as geometric volumes shrouded in billowing smoke that makes the industrial complexes seem menacing and inscrutable. The fumes they emit are the most blatant form of environmental pollution, the most shameless climate sin, driving the migration of caterpillars from warmer climates to Dúbravský’s garden and, what is worse, pushing the world and the political structures that lend it order to the brink of collapse. The moral line of demarcation is clear: anthropogenic and irreversible damage to ecosystems and the climate on the one side, a nature and biological diversity worthy of protection on the other. Highlighting the contrast between them, Dúbravský believes, is the first step toward a future in which no line will need to be drawn between human action and the state of nature.
It is worth noting that his paintings do not try to teach us a lesson or enjoin us to abstain from consumption and pleasure. On the contrary, Dúbravský encourages us to embrace our freedom, to be naked in the great outdoors, to pick fruit from the trees and eat it on the spot, to plant flowers and keep chickens. His work champions greater climate sensitivity through maximum liberty—an ethical hedonism that will perhaps forever remain utopian.”