Andrej Dubravsky, Aggressive Slav + Friendly Slav, at LAUNCH F18, NYC
by Sam Trioli
Andrej Dubravsky speaks to Sam Trioli about his new paintings for his current dual exhibition at LAUNCH F18, Aggressive Slav and Friendly Slav. Created from his countryside home in rural Slovakia, Andrej shares the effects on his work and life with returning to nature.
SAM TRIOLI: This exhibition highlights a new series of paintings for you. How did the Aggressive Slav/Friendly Slav series first begin?
ANDREJ DUBRAVSKY: I don’t even know if it’s a particular “series” with an exact start and end, to be honest. I just keep working all year long on various subjects in parallel, no matter if there’s any show coming up next month or in the next six months. Sometime before the works had to be shipped to New York City, I lined up many paintings outside in my garden and I picked from all of these paintings and sort of curated them in a way that would make a sense. This show makes it my first solo show in New York City. I felt like people in central (or Eastern Europe if you want) have a bit different — maybe a bit closer (?) connection to nature because most of them still grew up closer to nature. I decided to keep those big canvases (nature/village oriented works here) and I built up the show for LAUNCH F18 around the dystopian motif focusing on figures or portraits in front of some dystopian industrial landscapes. The “aggressive slav” title comes from one angry American Instagram follower who called me all kinds of “mean names” and aggressive slav was one of them. I am very thankful he helped me to formulate this part of my identity.
Andrej Dubravsky. All images courtesy of the Artist and LAUNCH F18, New York
TRIOLI: Were there any specific paintings or painters you were thinking about when you started this body of work?
DUBRAVSKY: thinking about him again because many (gay) people in the western world pretend they live in this kind of beach utopia. I think though, the pandemic is just foreplay for something much worse which is waiting for us and connected to the climate crisis. We just keep having fun anyways… some of the paintings are titled as “after party” — sounds maybe too dramatic, but that’s how I feel about the current state of world… one of the portraits has some cool 90’s red glasses for example, but he has strange orange spots on his skin, and so on – it’s about being cool and sexy, and having fun, but ignoring something fundamental…
TRIOLI: What historical elements were you thinking about when organizing this new series?
DUBRAVSKY: Figurative painting is always something totally historical! I like the periods in art history which are sort of a “dead end street.” When things were not changing formally too much, but it was just getting more and more manneristic, like Rococo for example or Mannerism, or lots of decadent movements, or some other kinds of art of the late 19th centuries. It feels like the artists sort of knew they are close to some big “revolution,” but those artists would just ignore it and they would keep making those strange “old fashioned” but extremely eye-catching paintings. Tuke represents something like this for me. There is a painting in the show called “bathers” where I appropriated Tuke’s composition of young boys hanging out on a boat, but I’ve painted the composition in contrast to disturbing colors, and placed factories with big smoking chimneys in the background instead of a romantic shore…
TRIOLI: What aspect of your work is the most important to you?
DUBRAVSKY: There are only two aspects which are important to me — painting itself and showing the paintings to people. There’s nothing more important or joyful for me.
TRIOLI: Walk us through a typical day in the studio?
DUBRAVSKY: I work in the morning and in the evening. I can’t work in the afternoon or before the dinner. If I’m in the studio during the daytime I usually just read books and watch porn and scroll through Instagram just like every other painter. That’s what I do when am in New York too, I just stay in the studio all day long because traveling back and forth between studio and apartment is pretty exhausting. When I am in my house it’s easy to pick up different types of activities during the day, like taking care of garden or taking a bike ride to the lake, or something I don’t have to feel bad for “wasting time” because you can’t call taking care of your future food “procrastination.” But from 6 PM to 10 PM I paint like a maniac. It feels like I am not sure what I am doing exactly but I am doing it well. In the morning I am more analytical and trying to analyze what I’ve made last night and why is it good or bad and if it should be disposed or stretched and framed. I’ve learned to listen to my biochemical processes. I think people used to call it “muse,” but I think it’s something biochemical. There’s something about the time of the day and glucose in the painter’s bloodstream…
TRIOLI: Your native country, Slovakia plays an important role in your work, both culturally but also environmentally. What brought you back to the countryside of Slovakia, and provided so much inspiration throughout all of these years?
DUBRAVSKY: I really didn’t expect and didn’t plan the countryside to affect my work and life so much. When I bought the house in 2015 I just wanted to escape from town, and wanted to have some outdoor place where I could work. I felt I had been imprisoned in those ugly urban studios I had been renting immediately following school. So, I wanted to buy a house in the region where my grandma used to live, because I knew the area from my childhood. I think it’s just impossible to spend time in the village taking care of the huge garden and not to see and observe the droughts, and all kinds of issues which the land is suffering from. I really didn’t plan to have chickens or paint chickens or bees or even ladybugs (haha). I just started to talk to local people and started to read, google, observe and experience… I was greedy for all the information about the land which surrounded me, and it naturally affected my work. It’s impossible or even ridiculous to deliver some “heavy” message in painting, or I even find it ridiculous that for the last 12 months I decided to create a monthly zine called, ANDREJ. It has about 130 pages and it’s partly my diary, but for me it’s also a platform where I can just write my thoughts, and ideas that are not suitable for painting. It was the most exhausting but also most satisfying project of my life. I absolutely didn’t expect such a massive response to it. Some emails from thereaders made me literally cry.
TRIOLI: Do you see your work as being political in any way?
DUBRAVSKY: It depends where I show it and what’s going on in the world around me at the moment. Painting naked boys in Slovkia is definitely still political because Slovakia pretends to be a very catholic country even though it’s actually not. There are no gay rights here — zero.
Painting and showing nude boys painting’s in Schoneberg, Berlin, or even New York is maybe a bit different. Painting greedy caterpillars in the moment of the decline of ecosystems could be slightly political as well?
TRIOLI: How would you hope that a painting could change the world?
DUBRAVSKY: I believe the regular rituals of viewing art, visiting museums and galleries, reading books and such can definitely change the individuals, but I am not sure the individuals which have the power to change the world care about the art at all?
. . .
Featured Image: detail of Three friends at the best outdoor party ever, 2020
Andrej Dubravsky was born in 1987 in Nove Zamky, SK. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, Slovakia in 2013. Andrej has exhibited in group and solo exhibitions internationally, including monumental gallery and museum exhibitions such as: “Golden Sands,’ Jiri Svestka Gallery, Berlin, DE (2012); “Sunsets Comments Insects Downloads,” Zahorian & Co Gallery, Bratislava, SK (2014); “Potential Wasted,” Dittrich & Schlechtriem, Berlin, DE (2019) and “Lava Run,” Atelier XIII, Bratislava, SK (2019) among others. Andrej lives and works in Bratislava, SK.
Artist, curator, and musician Sam Trioli was born in 1984 in Concord, Massachusetts and grew up in New Hampshire. Together with artist Tim Donovan, Trioli is a co-founder of the New York City-based gallery LAUNCH F18 which first opened in early 2011 and has organized 50 exhibitions to date. Throughout that time Trioli has also held other positions in the arts including the Director of Exhibitions at the New Hampshire Institute of Art in Manchester, NH and most recently the Manager and Director of Andrew Kreps Gallery in New York. As an artist, Trioli has exhibited his work at notable programs such as Marc Straus, Sharon Arts Center, Spring/Break Art Show and Howard Yezerski Gallery, among many others. In his spare time he is an avid hiker and surfer.