Opening: Friday, 22 September: 18 – 21 h, in the presence of the artist
The work of visual artist Douglas Mandry (CH, 1989) includes photography, video, sculpture and installation. He works multidisciplinary and often closely collaborates with earth scientists. Mandry’s reflections on landscape and its material elements ask what the sublime – that fascinating mixture of horror and beauty – could mean today. Is the sublime still possible in an era of sophisticated technologies and ecological disruptions, that are collapsing any presumed safe distance between mankind and nature? By letting his images interfere with natural elements like ice or dust, Mandry shows that matter matters. This approach has consequences, too, for outdated notions of the romantic genius, the ultimate author to the detriment of others, especially non-human agents. For Mandry, the artist is rather an agent or vector, co-creating with what shapes and materials are giving themselves. He is the ‘connection point that evolves in fluent ways with what you receive’. Following this, the sublime might be more about ‘being impressed’ rather than ‘to impress’, about feeling rather than seeing.
One example of the coming-together of image and material is the series Retardant Panels (2023). Mandry torched wood panels on whose blackened background vernacular photographs were then printed by means of the vivid red carmine pigment mixed with retardant. This industrially produced red powder used to be sprayed over wildfires to slow down the burning of (tropical) forests, nature’s cathedrals that have been critical agents in the relative stable climate of the Holocene.
The new series Territorial Shift (2023) follows Mandry’s endeavor to crystalize the global, nearly imperceptible changes that we are experiencing today. It deals with recent worldwide aerosol phenomena. Sahara sand, for example, has been found covering the snow high up the Swiss alps, and North-American skies turned into a hazy orange-brown color due to massive wildfires in Canada. Large-format photographs that were painted over testify to Mandry’s need to react to contemporary concerns and, by means of an interplay of references and mediums, to connect to broader constellations. Without using brushes, Mandry carefully dropped thin layers of liquid paint, at times mixed with pigments and Sahara sand that was blown all the way to Switzerland. During many weeks the movements of liquids and powders, beyond the artist’s control, caused the original subject to disappear within layer upon layer of organic clouds.
The idea for the series Resilienza (2023) was born when forest fires were ravaging southern Europe in 2021. Mandry employed coal from burned wood and produced transfers by rubbing this coal directly onto wooden panels, that are themselves engraved with images of the Engadine valley in Switzerland. This conceptual gesture traces a loop between the various stages of wood, in works that are entirely made of reclaimed and natural materials. From this superposition of matter and image emerges a discourse on the urgency of the climate crisis, but above all Resilienza wishes to explore notions of memory, natural cycles, regeneration and resilience.
Mandry loves the beauty of the unfinished. He doesn’t create standalone images as much as he slowly works on serial works and constellations, that might take many forms, akin to his working method of sampling existing things and assembling them together. He wants to break down reality and present it in alternative, non-linear ways, because “reality,” in his own words, “is quickly catching up with science-fiction.”
– Taco Hidde Bakker