logojaninebeangallery janinebeangallery Berlin, gallery for contemporary art

Dodo Dialogues

„Dodo Dialogues“

Artists: Anna Borowy, Dominik Butzmann, Kathrin Günter, Arny Schmit, Martin Stommel

September 5th – October 10th 2020, opening reception: September 4th 6 – 9pm

In the upcoming group exhibition „Dodo Dialogues“ janinebeangallery will show the artworks of the five artists Anna Borowy, Dominik Butzmann, Kathrin Günter, Arny Schmit and Martin Stommel as a conceptual juxtaposition of humans and nature. The paintings of the artists Borowy, Schmit and Stommel feature both landscapes and animal figures as motifs albeit entirely sparing any human person. In contrast, the photographies by Dominik Butzmann as well as the collages of Kathrin Günter present humans as main actors, though due to their roles as ecological activists or―in the case of Günter―through their surroundings they are unmissably associated with flora and fauna.

In Arny Schmit‘s landscapes the technique alone very materially reflects disturbances. Schmit uses multilayered cardboard as a carrier for his oil colours, cutting it open at specific spots and mounting a fluorescent tube across above it. His motifs are rather un-idyllic realms, chaotic vegetation and rampant, perilous weather prevail. This atmosphere is created and supported by his deconstructive since ablating wipe technique which repeatedly skews and crosses shapes and layers of paint. The mentioned mounted fluorescent tubes on some of his works contrast strongly, encumbering the painted landscape with an epitome of industry and civilisation.

Animals only own the foreground in the paintings for the exhibition by Martin Stommel. The fluent shapes of animal bodies are dynamically interwoven with one another and an organic background. The animals are densely graduated into the pictorial space, their outlines are partially merged, still the painter accomplishes to express and emphasize the bodies and their movements by a reduced and concentrated application of colour. The works „Day 6“ and „Der kleine Garten“ („The Little Garden“) are derived from biblical themes, namely Genesis and paradise. Different to its classic models though, Stommel provides no depiction of the creator himself in humanoid guise. The animals― in the case of „Der kleine Garten“ extincted ones only―stick with their kind and are the self-sufficient splendour of the artworks.

In the paintings for the exhibition by Anna Borowy animals are also the sole protagonists and get along without humans. Their expression and stance of her creatures however feature astonishing and familiar human traits, emphasizing the soulfulness of Borowy‘s fauna. Her graceful creatures appear as moved by emotions, their condition is both physically and spiritually precarious. The painter however didn‘t set animals as mere placeholders for human characters but depicted them as beings of intrinsic value, respectively as animistic complements.

The collages of Kathrin Günter have in terms of content addressed diverse agents of environmentalism. For these „portraits“ of persons like Leonardo Di Caprio, Greta Thunberg or Jason Momoa the artist employed digital pieces of images from their Instagram accounts and combined these with pictorial elements of animals to a new fabric. The result are hybrid avatars of humans and animals outfitted with the symbols and gesture of their ecological commitment and positioned in front of a threatening background of forces of nature. Here the depicted personalities ambivalently and ironically reveal their strengths and weaknesses.
Kathrin Günter also reflects the potency of selfexpression and the cult of personality as a common projection in the social media. In this context in particular Günter has compiled a book with thousands of printed comments taken from the Instagram account of Greta Thunberg. Especially the reactions on her person illustrate the Janus-faced character and the abysses of social media: on the one hand in their capacity as very potent amplifiers and transmitters of a movement, on the other hand as a reservoir of human malice.


The photography by Dominik Butzmann of a crowd within a rally of „Fridays for Future“, with a group of participating children in the center, documents the immediate protagonists of this movement. Through this snapshot the spectator gains insight into a peaceful event, whose initiators and most important supporters remarkably are youths, signifying sincerity and candour. With all scepticism―justified or not―or even reluctance the viewer may have towards the „Fridays for Future“ movement, Butzmann‘s photography provides an opportunity for a recalibration of the perspective at least on the motifs and attitude of theses demonstrators – which is particularly relevant in times in which most parts of society take primarily divisive and confrontational stands regarding certain political topics.

Though the subjects of the paintings of the exhibition are entirely and independently effective, the lack of depictions of humans is striking, albeit the traces and implications  of human influence are manifest. The artworks realise the beauty and vulnerability of nature as well as empathy with the creature. This implies an answer to anthropocentrism, which can also be understood as a root cause for the negligient handling of nature. The photos and collages of the exhibition endorse the criticism of human hybris, although from a different angle. Here it‘s the authentically admonishing children of „Fridays for Future“ on one side and on the other are celebrities accompanied by animal avatars, commited to environmentalism discreetly or by the cult of their personalities. But the collages also reflect human vanity and impulse, which may still pose a hindrance for sheer altruism. As an ensemble and by the inherent or obvious juxtaposition of nature and mankind the works of the exhibition „Dodo Dialogues“ emphasize the necessary realisation of the symbiosis, in which both are situated.

Matthias Bergemann