Installation view | courtesy of the artist and Stallmann
The exhibition That Cloud looks like a Dolphin brings together paintings by Daniel Spivakov and Jack Sommerville. Both painters employ children’s imagery in their works: Daniel Spivakov paints on Disney characters taken from a colouring book. Jack Sommerville takes kids’ drawings as the centre of his paintings created during a workshop he conducted in Berlin in September 2021 together with Urban Art Kids. The childly moves are complemented by other impulses: Violence and gesture in Daniel Spivakov, reflection and subtlety in Jack Sommerville.
The two painters trained together at Central Saint Martins College, London. Their visual languages formed in relation with but essentially differ from one another: Bold gestures, flashy colours and pop imagery on the one side, fragile fabrics, gentle splashes and scraggy lines on the other. The form testifies to the character, perhaps. Shown together the paintings present two approaches to a related topic: children’s visuality. As a source for another image and another kind of creation. Another truth.
DANIEL SPIVAKOV, NO HEAD THIS TIME (Tough shit, Hannah), 2021/2022, Oil on inkjet print on polyester 230 x 180 cm
DANIEL SPIVAKOV, WHO WANTS CHARACTER? I WANT THEREAL MCCOY, 2021, Oil on print on polyester 250 x 200 cm
DANIEL SPIVAKOV, AMERICA IS A SHIKSE NESTING UNDER MY ARM, 2021/2022, Oil, spray on print on polyester, 250 x 220 cm
DANIEL SPIVAKOV, BECAUSE THE BITCH IS CRAZY, 2021/2022, Oil on inkjet print on polyester 230 x 180 cm
| courtesy of the artist and Stallmann
There is nothing romantic about these pictures anymore. It’s fetish, but perhaps it always was.
One could try to find references in art history: Cy Twombly, Günther Förg, Julian Schnabel. But something else is happening here, something needs to be expressed. Again.
Despite the children’s images as grounding, these paintings are violent. The paint is smeared, the drops loosely fall all over the canvas. The central part of one figure shows references to blood. Kill her? BECAUSE THE BITCH IS CRAZY (2021). The aggression in gesture and paint stands in opposition to the colours: barbie pink, mint green, sun yellow, pool and sky blue. Some dark blue and red are mixed under, but these rather function as complement and bring balance to the paintings.
The last exhibition by Daniel Spivakov at Stallmann titled You’re Gonna Die (2021), staged paintings done on war imagery and mug shots, the prevailing colours were black, white, and reds. The violence of these paintings was immediate and into-your-face. The new paintings show a subtler violence, dressed in girls’ faces and bonbon colours. 21st century pain, or: That Princess looks like a whore.
Despite the familiarity of the Disney imagery – Ariel, Cinderella, sleeping Beauty, and Belle – the images feel estranged. They seem bleak, offering no sympathy or love. Perhaps it is due to their lack of colour, their “emptiness” and sense of being unfinished. They don’t match our expectations. But in this break the paintings reveal perhaps a crucial nature of their originals: It is an empty form to fill, to project something on to, to play. Some like to play it naughty.
Speaking as a former little girl: I can be that princess and fill the empty form.
JACK SOMMERVILLE, Helena., 2021/2022, Oil paint and wax on polyester 250 x 175 cm
JACK SOMMERVILLE, Thanos and Nikolas., 2021/2022, Oil paint and wax on polyester, 250 x 175 cm
JACK SOMMERVILLE, Yannis., 2021/2022, Oil paint and wax on polyester, 250 x 175 cm
JACK SOMMERVILLE, Nestor., 2021/2022, Oil paint and wax on polyester, 250 x 175 cm
| courtesy of the artist and Stallmann
The second room is more somber. It seems more playful and gayer, or rather: the game is a nice one. The large paintings on textile possess a reflective quality, a very deep being within their fragile support. [Dreamers.]
The paintings convey places: the sea, a flower meadow, a summer and a night sky. The material and technique of the stained frames show references to Chinese calligraphy, Symbolism, and ceramic glazes. They seem to contain ages. Their visuality suggests calmness at the same time with playfulness and a sense of experimentation.
On top of the fabric, kids’ drawings have been sewn. The drawings show suns, clouds, rain, fishes, houses, an airplane. Elementary forms, for the mayor part. Jack Sommerville’s first exhibition at Stallmann was called Rain, that’s all (2021). The large paintings on velvet and linen presented white clouds with blue rain drops falling down. Equally basic forms, an equal invitation to play, and a refusal of conceptualism and academia.
Through the light fabric of the drawings, the stains of the supporting material remain visible. Again, there is an underlying image tricking the viewer and forming a base on which to experiment on. A playground.
The kids’ lines relate to painters such as Paul Klee, Pablo Picasso, or the German painter Andi Fisher: Breaking down form[s] to arrive at a simpler, more immediate visual language, and a more immediate interaction with the world. A playful, excited, and by times naïve approach, another kind of wisdom: Where the nose is a crooked triangle; where cities and nature are formed of squares and circles; where colour splashes make the four seasons.
And where That Cloud looks like a Dolphin.