In his enigmatic, surreal collage paintings, Grigori Dor combines the chaotic imagery of the present with ancient notions of apocalypse and decay. He scours glossy magazines and the internet and arranges the found fragments into visions of doom and baroque vanitas images. However, the basis and starting point of this disturbing pictorial cosmos is the idea of beauty, the notion of a perfect world full of harmony.
This ideal is evoked by flawless faces, exotic orchids, magnificent tulips, juicy cherries, shiny gold and silver metal, expressive color swings, elegant rod constructions, romantic landscapes, sunsets and much more. Yet all these beauties must be followed by a “however”. In Dor’s paintings nothing is perfect, everything is torn apart, fragmented. Here the idea of beauty and harmony is just a memory.
The old-masterly fine painting, precise down to the smallest detail, contradicts the unclear meaning of the events. It is always only parts that we see, never the whole. This is a world whose center is lost. The abundance, the opulence of the imagery covers up that there is no real content, that everything is only superficial appearance, a world of scenery.
In deep, placeless spaces, confusion and chaos reign, a seemingly arbitrary jumble of picture snippets and color surfaces. The fragments of human faces are joined by beetles and birds, cords and cables, metallic-technical equipment, and, last but not least, vigorous brushstrokes. It is a decaying, crumbling world of horror, full of dark or glowing threatening colors. Everything is in motion, seems to fly apart as in an explosion. At the same time, deep silence lies over the scenery, like a spaceship racing soundlessly through space at multiple supersonic speeds.
Human beings are never real and never completely present in these pictures. They always appear only as a fragment of a picture, usually as an eye, a tear-out from magazines or photos. The viewer involuntarily associates the surreal scene from Buñuel’s film Un chien andalou, in which a razor cuts through a woman’s eye. A Landscape with Sunset is anything but the image of an atmospheric sundown in an idyllic landscape – it is a disaster scene.
In other pictures, icy mountains threaten, or the settings resemble moonscapes. A blood-red “sky” seems to reflect a blazing fire. An apt symbol for these hostile situations is the orchid blooming in an icy landscape, whose stem consists of a cool metal construction.
The old masters brush work and many topics refer to history and art history – which Grigori Dor studied before he became an artist himself. As in the vanitas still lifes of the baroque era, decay, shattering and death lurk next to the beauty of a pearl and the abundance of magnificent flowers and opulently laid tables. A symbol of this are the glass spheres, which in their perfect form symbolize total harmony, yet break easily. And splendid red cherries turn into the apples of the Hesperides, promising eternal youth.
Even more, these paintings evoke the aesthetics of the 18th and early 19th centuries, with their romanticism of ruins and their delight in catastrophe, the beauty of horror. One drew aesthetic pleasure from the decay of once magnificent buildings, from the victory of rampant nature over human endeavors. To art lovers, foremost Johann Joachim Winckelmann, the torso of an ancient sculpture seemed more perfect than the undamaged work.
It was the Irish philosopher Edmund Burke who separated the concept of the sublime from the beautiful and incorporated the dark, the uncanny, the fantastic and the grotesque into the aesthetics. Only these kinds of expression, he argued, could evoke in the viewer the mixed and at the same time strongest sensation of the “delightful horror”, as he termed it. One might think of William Turner’s paintings of the fall of Carthage or the apocalyptic visions of his contemporary John Martin.
The artistic technique of collage plays a central role in the work of Grigori Dor. Looking back, we see that with the Cubists, collage meant the end of the linear world view, with the Surrealists the dissolution of rationality. With the principles of the fragmentary, the non-linear, the dreamlike, the ambiguous, the associative and the non-sensical, Dor ties in with both models. This leads us to an essential content of his paintings: art itself.
There are many indications of this: from the splashes and swings of color that become independent and rush through the pictorial space as an object, to the old-masterly character of painting, to the many references in the history of art. There is, for example, the proximity to traditional pictorial themes such as landscape, still life and portrait, which is invoked in the picture titles, or the connection with allegory and exoticism.
Dor’s art is connected with the painting of the 18th and 19th centuries as well as with Pop Art and Photorealism. And he addresses the old stylistic contrasts of painterly-linear and figurative-abstract. The digital presence is treated rather incidentally, for example when a “Like” button pops up or a Red Light appears as a pixelated color patch.
As mentioned at the beginning: Grigori Dor’s work evolves around the idea of beauty – which has fallen apart, the pictures say so very clearly. It has degenerated and broken up in an event that antiquity called apocalypse, which today is based on the flood of images of the mass media, the Internet and the possibilities of digital technology. And yet: the idea of beauty is preserved in every fragment. And did not the ancient world respond to the fear of the Apocalypse with the hope for a Golden Age?
You can see Grigori Dor’s paintings in our exhibitions Figures & Faces, Part 2, Landscape, so Beautiful!, and Surreal And Phantastic Worlds. You might also see the interview with the artist in DEEDS and visit his pages on Facebook and Instagram.
If you like Grigori Dor’s work you might also be interested in Alexandra Baumgartner, Joanna Buchowska, Marina Roca Die, Janes Haid-Schmallenberg, Yury Kharchenko, Florian Pelka, Gilles Roudière and Victoria Pidust.
Grigori Dor was born 1970 in Ulan-Ude, Russia. He lives and works in Berlin.
Dor studied art history and German Philology in St. Petersburg. A DAAD grant brought him to Berlin where he continued his studies 1990-1994 at the Humboldt Universität. Thereafter, he studied graphic design at the Lette-Verein until 1997.
selection of Exhibitions (S=Solo)
|2020||50/50. The Matter Of Duality, Paul-Fleischmann-Haus, Berlin|
|2019||Hypnos, Galerie Rothamel, Erfurt (S)|
Princess Slaughter, Atelierhof Kreuzberg, Berlin
Preparing for Darkness.Vol.4, Kühlhaus, Berlin
Von denen die auszogen, Städtische Galerie Landau, Kunstverein Villa Streccius
|2018||Salon Bohème, janinebeangallery, Berlin|
Berlin Calling, Gallery Parnass, Aarhus, Denmark
Me, Myself and I, Artdocks Gallery, Bremen
Aneignung, Galerie im Rathaus Reinickendorf, Berlin
|2017||Blue Bleu Blau Blu, Verein Biennale Austria, Vienna|
Falling Empire, janinebeangallery, Berlin (S)
Summer Selection III, Art von Frei Gallery, Berlin
Mermaids and Unicorns, online exhibition by peertospace
Hope, Priests and Prawns at Willner Brauerei, Berlin
|2016||Barocktikum, Kunstverein Speyer (S)|
Beyond, Kirche St. Johannes Evangelist, Berlin
|2015||The Archeology of Dreams and Desires, janinebeangallery, Berlin|
Macrocosmi, Ausstellungsprojekt Berlin-Bologna
|2014||Galerie Lauth, Ludwigshafen (S)|
|2013||Galerie Liebau, Burghaun/Fulda|
|2009||Born in the USSR, Auswärtiges Amt, Berlin|
Projekt Zirkus Minimus, Galerie Walden, Berlin
|2007||Galerie Noack, Mönchengladbach|
|2006||berlinology, Potsdamer Platz, Berlin (S)|
|2005||Quartier 110 Friedrichstraße, Berlin (S)|
|2004||Galerie Zandi, Berlin|
|2003||Project Paradise, bunker underneath Alexanderplatz, Berlin|
|2001||Galerie open room, Berlin (S)|
|2000||Galerie open room, Berlin (S)|
|1999||Galerie Sergej Popow, Berlin (S)|
|1998||Eastern European Contemporary Art, Galerie Storkower Bogen, Berlin|