Trying to find Katerina Sidorova’s (1991) inspiration for her work The Wall – which is currently presented as part of the duo exhibition with works by her and by Wieske Wester (1985) at Dürst Britt & Mayhew – i worked through all kinds of weapon porn (one could call it “un-gay porn”) on YouTube, but found it at last in a weaponry review site.
(Being an art historian brings you to the most improbable cavities of the human mind).
I was amazed, not just with the ingenuity of the anti-riot wall (which is Sidorova’s source of inspiration), but especially with the artistry of the demonstration video.
The Thunderbirds of a far-away-childhood wouldn’t stand a chance against such and all the other modern devises.
These would crush any childhood dream and indeed any adult dream.
Sidorova’s reflections are even more dreamlike, but one could doubt if it is a happy dream.
It is clear the violence has stopped in one way or another, and her works stand and hang in silence.
They are tender, transparent, maybe smudged, even broken fragments of hope and pain.
As an ensemble they are very impressive in between Wester’s robust paintings. George Orwell’s famous novel Animal Farm (Wester’s source of inspiration) was published only two years before Kalashnikov – the namesake of the modern Russian weapon company responsible for the anti-riot wall – designed the AK 47 in the aftermath of World War II.
As you probably know, in George Orwell’s Animal Farm the farm animals rebel and seize power in order to create a fairer society.
However, the pigs manage to be on top and run a dictatorship.
In Wester’s paintings the pigs become less aggressive.
And why not, as pigs can be, after all, quite disarming animals.
With their pinkish complexion they even look a bit like white Europeans, they are as gluttonous, playful and pathetic as human kind.
With the painting Arthur however, there is a stark reminder of death, maybe inspired by the skull of Willingdon Beauty, the patriarch of the animals’ revolution.
As a portrait bleaching in memory, George Orwell (in the painting Mea Culpa) looks at Sidorova’s Wall, while split characters of his real name (Eric Arthur Blair) look at each other, one alive and the other as dead as a dodo.
The front gallery shows completely different work by David Roth (1985).
Last year, during the first Covid-19 period, i wrote quite extensively about one of his works in Villa La Repubblica (click here to read it – in Dutch).
In Sidorova’s and Wester’s works the materials play an important expressive role.
One could say that is even more so in Roth’s paintings.
His works are about many aspects of the act of painting itself, both technical and spiritual ones.
Roth draws his inspiration from the work and the material itself.
One could even say the paint and the painter inspire each other, as the title of the show implies – and with a firm wink – it is both a physical and mental love affair.
My visit to both exhibitions was rather last-minute: this weekend will be your last chance to see it all in real.
If you can, do so!
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Contents of all photographs courtesy to the artists and Dürst Britt & Mayhew, Den Haag
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