Antonis Donef exhibit
The Breeder – Athens
June 11 – 17th, 2012
Our presentation at the fair (room 0/9, place G5) will consist of an 8 meter long work that Donef has been working on for the last two years (2010-2012).
To avoid any, even unconscious, narrative or linear inclination, Donef worked simultaneously from each end of the work, in a huge double scroll (like the Torah), unrolling it as he proceeded towards the middle. In an equally ritualistic fashion, he then wove these found texts and images, compiled across time, continents and cultures, into a pictorial tapestry of impenetrable, mystical complexity. With no beginning or end, Donef’s untitled chronicle is ordered solely by esthetic impulse and visual association.\
Donef’s practice divides into three separate phases, each of which is stirred by its peculiar creative necessity. It is as if the fragmentation of the universe of the word – the pages of the book, which he rips apart and presents in a wild new order of coherence – needs to be preceded by the fragmentation of the artist himself.
At first there is Donef the collector, the hunter and gatherer of rare printed matter. He strolls through the second-hand and antique bookstores in Athens in hunt for old encyclopedias, almanacs, illustrated reference books and any other odd manuscript he can lay his hands on. A true bibliophile, he accumulates tomes in an array of languages and from different sources – including his friends – and incorporates them thoroughly in his own private library. At the same time, his beloved books and especially those compilations of a body of information commonly called compendium, represent the static and purely subjective knowledge of a certain time period of human history. The artist disputes the fact that the reader has to resign himself to a work presuming to impart a total truth.
Tangled in this bizarre love and hate relationship with the printed word Donef the assembler – the second phase of his creations – emerges. After a careful and often agonizing selection he tears the pages out of the books, rearranges them by his own rules and sticks them onto the canvas. The written pages of presumptuous knowledge – yellowed by time, saturated with history and often rendered indecipherable to the common viewer as written in languages not using the Latin letters such as Greek, Russian or Chinese – lie flat on the canvas, incoherently arranged side by side giving the viewer a purely pictorial impression.
At this point the artist proceeds to the third phase – the completion of the alienation of the word – becoming Donef the miniaturist. With the use of a traditional fountain pen dipped into Indian ink – commonly used in the past to write or print books – he starts by timidly enhancing the pictures and marginalia lingering on the pages, then slowly growing bolder he works his way up to increasingly complex illustrations.
An uncompromising worker Donef is a pedantic artist, his paintings focus on details and as every detail becomes part of the whole, and only in the end the dots unite and become – like stars in a constellation – meaningful when seen from afar. His depictions are reminiscent of a post-apocalyptic, tattooist Hieronymus Bosch with hundreds of themes, motives, movements, images and figures filling the picture. In-between: the printed symbols of the Chinese description of a steam engine or the differentiation of traditional Rumanian costumes in Cyrillic letters.
Similarly to a child’s iconoclastic instinct to destroy or manipulate whatever he is confronted with, Donef makes use of the printed media as a base to his own narrative, which often continues, stretches and alters already given lines and forms. By rendering illegible the page he deprives it of its first and fundamental function. In fact he creates a new one, totally estranged from the accessibility of a potential reader. By deconstructing the traditional meaning of the word, by dispossessing the page from its main function and finally subjugating it to the base of his paintings, Donef elevates the book and its content to pure art, giving it the infinitive meaning each spectator encounters in his own personal epiphany. Only then, in this fourth and final phase, the apotheosis is complete and the written word acquires a new, pictorial meaning.
Antonis Donef has works in the most prominent private and institutional collections like the Dakis Joannou Collection Foundation among others.
He had been awarded with the “Art House Shanghai Residency Award” in 2010. He has participated in numerous institutional group exhibitions (at the State Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki, at the Benaki Museum in Athens, Teriade Museum in Lesvos and more). Antonis Donef solo exhibition at The Breeder is scheduled for fall 2012.
Lasonos 45, 104 36, Athens, Greece
Tuesday & Saturday 12pm-6pm
Wednesday & Friday 12pm-10pm