DAG

Chromatic Oligarchies

by Ulrich Schötker (1982),
translation by Sonja Commentz

”… yet, it seemed to entice him to renewed, brutal exhaustions, followed by racing octaves petering out into screams, and then a cadence started, a slow, unstoppable increase, a chromatic upward wrestling of wild, irresistible yearning, all too suddenly interrupted by frightening and rousing pianissimi that seemed to pull the ground away from under his feet, sinking into lust …“
— Thomas Mann, Buddenbrooks

The quote from Thomas Mann’s novel ”Buddenbrooks“ exemplifies how literature and music may enter into a changeable relationship. The act of writing about music gains its own musical character while, nevertheless, remaining literature. In our cultural environment there has always been a connection, no matter how tenuous, between the aesthetic disciplines of literature, art and music. Reciprocal influences have been prevalent since Modernism – the Wagnerian quest for a holistic approach to art and Expressionism are obvious examples of this phenomenon.

These references are usually taken for granted, but the arts have never quite fulfilled the demands stated therein. Attempts to dissolve or at least approach the boundaries between the various disciplines have been frequent, though. One such approach may be found in the paintings by Dag.

His pictures contain a minimum of actual material. Usually, there is little paint to be found on monochrome, often white, canvas. Dag neglects the material in a way rarely encountered since the beginning of painting. Dag colours in! He functionalises colour by assigning it to certain shapes. Analogous to the synthesiser, shape elements are sampled, pitched and cleansed of unnecessary colour noise, then implemented in a goal-oriented, straight-forward manner. Form remains more important than paint: rounded, organic shapes reminiscent of patterns or sample elements dominate his work. Together they form small, rhythmic densities, partial representations even. But there’s no rapport waiting to be established: Dag’s pictures are not industrially manufactured blueprints.

The lineage of music, from 60s jazz to 90s electronica, shows how elements of our sound environment may be noticed, isolated and combined anew. Dags pictures display a similar work ethic. His references to record sleeves, flyers and lifestyle magazines show a firm understanding of the aesthetic consciousness of the 90s. Dag picks his repertoire of shapes from our stylised cultural landscape. He, return, re-inserts his work into our surroundings via print media, record designs or club installations. This feedback denies a general, ideological allocation. His pictures cannot be interpreted as political, contextual or site specific! Dag has developed an artistic understanding that rests on the playful use of shapes and colours, for everyone to see – a game of superimposition and breaks, of surface and space, density and dissolution – closely resembling a linguistic approach.

The question of dominance has clearly been resolved in his work. No matter how different and differentiated the creation and positioning of his shapes may be, Dag seems to rely on a harmonic, idealised syntax. Herein, too, his pictures show a close relationship to traditional print media. The actual painting materials are not connected to a functional-conceptual aesthetic, though, but remain essential to the pictures per se.

The seemingly surface-heavy, superficial paintings are a lot more than just the sum of their basic elements: they clearly rest on a communicative structure. Dag places these elements in relationships to each other that create conflict-laden interaction through careful distribution on a flat surface. This results in a density of composition fraught with symbolic meaning. On the other hand there are plains, backgrounds and linear structures to dissolve these meanings, destroying or countering them with new constructs.

This approach leads to a visual expression found in numerous divisions of modern art: in references to Op-Art, monochrome painting, minimalism, hard-edge or naive painting. The separate components have finally escaped their post-modern value slump and gone on a quest for renewed dialogue. The free composition of single reference-layers results in a complexity that transports the viewer into known art forms without demanding similar reactions.

Dag’s playfulness regarding shapes relies on well-known picture rhythms while carefully selecting design principles that preclude arbitrary clichés. Dags pictures rely on simple build-up to reach contrast-rich compositions. The superimposition of one shape on another may create very clear tensions on the canvas that are not disturbed by other syntactic motifs like density, breaks etc. But these, too, appear in such a clear and direct manner that one is tempted to place his pictures in a pop context. Warhol’s love for coarse blueprints from the yellow press, the already traditional usage of simple display techniques, even the glorification of reducing material usage to the absolute minimum - all of these have shaped modern art as we know it. Dag has adopted and interpreted these principles in his work, resulting in the unique visual language that is histrademark. By now, Dag’s pictures have become unmistakeable and inseparable from his name, his label.