Andrej Dúbravský: a wild and fluvial affective vio...

Andrej Dúbravský: a wild and fluvial affective violence

Sometimes capturing the imagination means simply escaping into a small portable thought, which in the opinion of some is a cat, an animal which is like a pocket tiger.[1] Even if impervious theories reason about the preferred themes of today’s artists, orienting oneself toward such a subject might generate perplexity, whether because of the charge of inaudible simplicity or because it vigorously contrasts the widespread exhausted inventiveness of contemporary art.

Andrej Dúbravský, Alica, installation view, ph. credit Giorgio Benni, courtesy Richter Fine Art, Roma

When a painting is conceived as an act of desertion toward the ideal, it is natural that it comes to us with a peculiar artistic value, reinforced by its spurious and wild character. This is the case in the production of Andrej Dúbravský (1987, Nové Zámky, Slovakia), whose practice is in constant turmoil, moved as it is by a penetrating and curious dissection of the natural world, with which the artist lives in incessant symbiosis. It is true that the author does not tend to enclose himself in the green bud of this motif,  always remaining open to fresh ideational cues, as in Alica‘s pictorial production on display in the solo exhibition scheduled until July 28, 2023, at Richter Fine Art in Rome. This project unveils Dúbravský’s lucid madness, expressed in an affective fury toward his missing homonymous cat, with whom he portrays himself in joyful poses, revealing how painting is, first and foremost, an instant for itself, an alliance between memory and the tender delight it bestows.

Andrej Dúbravský, Alica, installation view, ph. credit Giorgio Benni, courtesy Richter Fine Art, Roma

Although the subject might seem repetitive and superficial, it poses a challenge: that is, to deal with the classic self-portrait genre according to a rich imagination, which for Dúbravský is equivalent to immersing one’s head in unstable and soft vapors of a cold atmosphere advancing from the depths of the lunar vesper. Nonetheless, while visiting the exhibition you’re left with the conviction that he worked with a fixed and sharp thought, imbued with pure narcissism and complacency toward himself, as «art is nothing, neither this nor that. Art is me, because I say, I am this – and this is art»[2]. Well, this is not the case at all, for the artist portrays himself without any forced affectation and inelegant pretentiousness, but in the mere candid awareness of being a manipulator of his own memory, leaving plenty of space for a creativity that pins down and encloses the time of yearning and fatality. And dealing with such an instant leads him to project himself in an apparently coarse, imprecise and aleatory manner, with an extreme tonal sensitivity, the result of a manual ability of beauty that is really difficult to render. And here Dúbravský allows himself to be enveloped by a lunar light, at times punctuated by cold, acid, and brown colorations, according to a luminosity built on the strength of alternation and decomposability, which, of course, pulls out the only essential data, such as the hands and the summary definition of the bodies, always imbued with a subtle eroticism that is never inhibited.

Andrej Dúbravský, Night blindness, acrilico su tela, 110 x 100 cm, 2023, ph. Credit Giorgio Benni, courtesy Richter Fine Art, Roma

Thus, by expressively juxtaposing and assembling blue, red and green, together with the impetuous use of charcoal, he makes us understand that what counts in painting is its wild quality. Hence, nothing is ever perfectly defined but kept alive by intervals that make the differences throb, and such irreverent attitude is a gleeful drift of the blandly real and strongly fluvial natural world. But if only in dreams everything is fluctuating, indeed with Dúbravský there is the ability to make the human tissue unstable like water, as also the painting technique presupposes the use of strongly diluted colors arranged in washed-out halos. So that for the artist no body of man has the color of flesh but possesses the gradations of acrid rust or the glow of a marsh, manifesting an unexpected sovereign wetness and a sense of anti-gravity.

Andrej Dúbravský, Bathroom mirror at 3am, acrilico su tela, 100 x 120 cm, 2023, ph. Credit Giorgio Benni, courtesy Richter Fine Art, Roma

Nevertheless, something unusual takes place in the exhibited works: Dúbravský works so much on his own model to the point of possessing and manipulating it, finally emphasizing its sacredness, the latter attitude consolidated throughout his production, whereby every creature belonging to the natural ecosystem has valid dignity and strong capacity to translate into an artwork. He thus comes to an explosion of his own nature without any recitation of himself, and even where the image seems frozen, he never suggests to us a true transcription of it, aware as he is that «by copying nature. We certainly do not succeed in any way capturing it – better to offer the feeling – of itself»[3]. If in the liberation of the beloved and feelingly worked portraits we are allowed to grasp the image in its immediate dateness, otherwise in the canvases with the delightful character of sketches, sporadically collected on the gallery floor, we likely touch upon a question that arose from the intellectual dialogue with Gallerist Tommaso Richter, an interest based on the freedom of the creative vein and enfranchised by the question; what is the act of creation? [4]. The resulting response is consolidated in inventing and creating concepts, rather than pausing in their tacit and empty reflection, and in this choice, there is no intention to communicate the objectual character of the work, but rather to highlight its visual and euphoric quality as a necessary and functioning mechanism for the proper course of a project with a seductive character.

Andrej Dúbravský, Alica, installation view, ph. credit Giorgio Benni, courtesy Richter Fine Art, Roma

In his own way Dúbravský, in electing this incessant and introspective conversation with something that no longer exists, appears emotionally lacerating as the rendering of a stubborn account of an emotional bond in which the artist portrays himself as perishable, carnal and in which he finds a firm refuge, at a historical moment in which his homeland is tragically scarred, albeit indirectly by the wartime consequences of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. So, in order not to give in to the obviousness of self-portraits, the artist, with courage, constantly analyzes his creative being as if it were the first time, precisely because his evocative brushwork seems to surpass the already painted depictions. And it is with this awareness that he performs the ritual of painting, so that he can always begin again with different substances, though always starting from his cherished memories, like the living fluid of water, an unstable and extraordinarily dynamic element, thus always beginning again but in a different way. And it can never be the case that water and forest split for the intervening time in his existence, for both reside in the wild garden of Dúbravský where he, treading on the grass wet by the dew that crunches under his footsteps, experiences an affective violence that would disorient anyone, in which he, on the other hand, is at ease, with Alica and hirsute caterpillars in the tracing of the lunar light..

Maria Vittoria Pinotti

[1] Giorgio Manganelli, Catturare il fantasma, in Emigrazioni oniriche, Adelphi, Milano, 2023, p. 96

[2] Ettore Sottsass, Per qualcuno può essere lo spazio, curated by Matteo Codignola, Adelphi, 2017, p. 70

[3] Edvard Munch, Frammenti sull’arte, curated by Marco Alessandrini, Abscondita, 2019, p. 18

[4] Gilles Deleuze, Che cos’è l’atto di creazione?, curated by Antonella Moscati, Cronopio, 2022, pp. 10-11


Alica, Andrej Dúbravský
Galleria Richter Fine Art
31/05/2023 – 28/07/2023
Opening hours: From Monday to Friday from 3pm to 7pm or by appointment
Vicolo del Curato, 3 00186, Roma


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