“Content is to be dissolved so completely into form that the work of art cannot be reduced to anything not itself.” — Clement Greenberg, Towards A Newer Laocoon, 1940
In his famous essay Towards A Newer Laocoon (1940), Clement Greenberg theorised that the arts have historically undergone periodic cycles of imitation. The dominant art of any given moment, he said, becomes the prototype for all over medias. Each art form then goes through a process of incorporating one or more of its elements into oneself. According to Greenberg, the visual arts imitated at first the narrative structures of literature and poetry, and then the lyricism of symphonies. Instead, he advocated for a ‘purity’ and ‘separation’ of the arts. Painting, he said, should embrace its formal and intrinsic qualities. If the specificity of painting lies simply in the application of paint on canvas, then there was only one conceivable solution; pure abstraction.
Greenberg’s thoughts stand no better relevance than today. From the 1960’s ‘Multi-media’ emerged as an entirely new art form in itself, incorporating the likes of video, theater, design and music. The fallibility of the human hand long since been exposed by the advent of Photographic realism. With the continued development of new medias and immersive technologies, the visual arts have took on a whole new dimension. Perhaps reverting back to the ‘purity’ of abstraction is exactly what is needed.
Although the golden era of abstract art has long since surpassed, it’s made a big comeback in recent years. Chilean artist Dominga Vergara is one of the artists making that happen She creates large format paintings on canvas using acrylic and oil chalk, occasionally employing tools to chisel into the surface to create dimensional layering. Her paintings bear no witness to objective reality, instead referencing primary elements of form, colour and line. Her work translates the inner world of her unconscious into complex abstract forms.
photos by PILOTENKUECHE International Art Program
Beginning with only an idea of a colour palette in mind, she starts to construct a basic skeleton of lines. Shapes begin to emerge from the canvas through a series of spontaneous gestures. But while some brush strokes are rough and expressive, others necessitate purified geometry and mathematical precision. “Chaos and control exist in equilibrium”, she beautifully puts it. Layers are slowly built up until finally she reaches a compositional balance and she knows when to stop.
Dominga was born in Chile in 1984. She attained an art degree at the University Finis Terra and later became an art professor at the Universidad del Desarrollo. After moving to Berlin in 2015, she exhibited ‘Das Mikro Makro Leben’ at the Berlin Chilean embassy, and collaborated on the project ‘Go Girl’ during Berlin Fashion week 2017. Soon after, she was invited to represent Chile as part of a collective of South-American artists at ArtNord; one of the most foremost contemporary art fairs in Europe. Like much of her work which forges a visual dialogue with her surroundings, she tells me that the paintings she produced in Berlin reflected the movement and dynamism of the city.
She’s currently in residence at Pilolentuche in Leipzig. For the group’s ongoing exhibition at Kunskraftwerk, Dominga created a wapping four meter long painting in her signature style. In the basement of the old industrial power plant, Dominga wanted to forge a dialogue between her work and the space. Wrapping one side of the work around a rusted metal cylinder, the other was suspended by transparent fish wire. The resulting effect seemed as though part of the painting was floating in mid air. For her next project, which will be exhibited at the group’s final show, Dominga wants to paint onto an old map acquired from a flea market earlier in the residency. She is also working on two large format canvases. We’re excited to see what she brings to the table.
Written by: Ellisha Walkden
You can see Dominga’s work in the following Pilotenkueche International Art Program shows:
Elsewhere a Blue Line and the Absurdity of a Ghost on a Stone
Open: Sun 19 – Sun 2 June 2019, 10AM – 6PM (closed Mondays)
Location: Kunstkraftwerk, Saalfelder Str. 8, 04179 Leipzig
Wrestling with Impermanence
Vernissage: Fri 21 June 2019, 7PM
Open: Sat 22 – Wed 26 June 2019 1PM-5PM
Location: PILOTENKUECHE, 2nd Floor, Franz-Flemming-Str. 9, 04179 Leipzig, Germany
Performance: To be announced