Soy Capitán is currently presenting a solo show of new paintings by Berlin artist Matthias Dornfeld.
At the sight of the playful animal parade of Quadrupede, you might hallucinate the clicking of hooves, stiletto heels, or the treading of soft bear paws. Reminiscent of children’s drawings – a creative register every one of us can relate to first-hand – Dornfeld’s art doesn’t need explanation in order to unfold its curious vitality.
Each of the large-scale paintings in Quadrupede showcases one singular animal in side view, against an indefinite, empty background. Lionesse, as the title and the creature’s claws suggest, presents a female lion. Its bulky trunk, however, glows in a bright pink – and on its shoulders: A tubby, blue smiley-face, crowned by a splendorous aureola. The strange chimera stretches her limbs and tail across the full spread of the canvas, placidly returning our gaze… In Dornfeld’s paintings, simplicity unfolds psychological complexity – and the naïve merges with the magical.
To some degree, the naïve aesthetic of Dornfeld’s pictorial world evokes the art of autodidact Henri Rousseau (who inspired the Surrealists and many other French avant-gardists), and the deskilled, expressive brush strokes of 1980s German neo-expressionism. However, Dornfeld’s approach to painting pre-eminently involves a deliberate ‘unlearning’ of such art historical discourses – as well as the academic training derived from them.
The medium of painting, for Matthias Dornfeld, provides access to a long-lost state of mind: One, aware of a deeply rooted kinship between everything that creeps and crawls in this world. “Ein Pferd”, the artist says teasingly, “ist ja auch nur ein Mensch” (“A horse, after all, is also just human”). We may deem four-legged gait to be a distinguishing feature of the animal – and tend to forget that it also marks a transitional state in human evolution and our way of discovering the world in infancy.
Human hubris is known to present a very concrete threat to the modern world. And there’s already a new species of quadrupeds on the rise: A vanguard of four-legged military robots, BigDogs and WildCats (developed by Labs such as BostonDynamics), can already be watched practicing their jumps on YouTube. Today, maybe more than ever, re-accessing an understanding of ourselves that places us within a continuity of the world’s creatures might be a vital exercise.
Matthias Dornfeld (b. 1960 in Esslingen, Germany, based in Berlin) studied at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Munich. In 2014 and 2015, he was Visiting Professor, also at the Munich art academy, temporarily replacing Professor Günter Förg. Dornfeld’s art has been shown internationally since 2001 and is part of numerous renowned art collections. His recent solo shows include: Karussell (Helsinki Contemporary, 2016), A Loose Tooth in the Booth (, London, 2016), Donnerstag (Matthias Jahn, Munich, 2015), Paintings Sweet Paintings (Neuer Aachener Kunstverein, 2014), Die Schönheit der Frau des Bäckers (Waldburger Wouters, Brussels, 2014), No Deleuze, No Flip-Flops (San Juan, Puerto Rico, 2011), Matthias Dornfeld (Ben Kaufmann, Berlin, 2010), Matthias Dornfeld (Harris Lieberman, New York, 2009). Selected group shows: Die Dritte Hand – Last Exit Painting (Salon Dahlmann, Berlin, 2015), Captain Pamphile, A pictorial novel in pieces, Based on a novel by Alexandre Dumas (Deichtorhallen & Sammlung Falckenberg, Hamburg, 2011).
Writing via press release and photographs provided by the gallery.