The eyes have all the seeming, of a demon’s that is dreaming
Curated by Sayori Radda
Daniel Benjamin Gallery, 68 Compton Street, EC1V 0BN, London
“It harbours within it an excess, a rapture, a potential of associations that overflows all the determinations of its ‘reception’ and ‘production’.”
Jean-François Lyotard, Critical Reflections (1991)
“The eerie... is constituted by a failure of absence or by a failure of presence... [It] concerns the unknown; when knowledge is achieved, the eerie disappears.”
Mark Fisher, The Weird and the Eerie (2016)
In his essay “The Aesthetics of Affect”, Simon O’Sullivan makes visible the importance of the affect of an artwork in relation to its “...intensive quality, as [what] goes on beneath, beyond and even parallel to signification,” describing this deterritorialising affect as an event or happening, operating as a fissure in representation. He states that this affect is a “...function of transformation [that is] less involved in making sense of the world and more involved in exploring the possibilities of being, of becoming, in the world.” The unsettling depictions of otherworldly beings in the work of Sonya Derviz explore such eerie fissures, through what Mark Fisher referred to as neither absent nor present, in The Weird and the Eerie.
As bystanders we are caught up in an interminable unsettling event, not unlike the phantasmic extra-terrestrial figures in the work of Derviz, engaged in an inhospitable dialogue among themselves. Are we welcome here? On entering the gallery, spectral and grotesque facial expressions in the Wise Girls series cast their ill-boding glance on the ferocious metamorphosis of a butterfly transmuting into a spider facing them. At the far end of the gallery looms a gloomy, yellow-eyed pale figure with piercingly sharp fangs in Energy Vampire (Wise young girls). As it glares devouringly yet seductively at the pale-skinned chimerical figure opposite in Energy Vampire, the artist’s affiliation with Carl Theodor Dreyer’s pastiche “Vampyr” becomes apparent.
Depicted through fading pale colours, the figures in Wise Girls descend illuminatingly from a liminal dark plane, as if suspended in an eruptive momentum of appearance. Energy Vampire (Wise young girls) depicts two ethereal creatures in a boundless state of becoming; floating or erupting in what Mark Fisher would describe as an “...undetermined interzone, a semi-abstract space.” Derviz may begin by materialising her painting through memory, familiar faces or references to visual cultures, but she then enters uncharted territory: It is a repetitive process of “letting go” and accepting the intuitive relationship between a fleeting subconscious and the materiality of the painting, or as she states, “losing that sense of familiarity, finding something new.”
Title inspired by “The Raven” Tales of Mystery and Imagination, Poe Edgar Allan. 2011
Text by Sayori Radda
An exhibition of works by Sophie Mei Birkin, Max Boyla, Sonya Derviz, Antoine Leisure, Kin-Ting Li, Ding Shilun, Scott Young, The Artist Room, 76 Brewer Street, W1F 9TX, London, 10th March - 2nd April 2022
The Artist Room is pleased to present Inside Out, a group exhibition including works by Sophie Mei Birkin, Max Boyla, Sonya Derviz, Antoine Leisure, Kin-Ting Li, Ding Shilun and Scott Young.
This exhibition explores how a dystopian consciousness permeates contemporary art. From subverting the so-called ‘natural’ to envisioning surreal cosmologies and carnal futures, this exhibition brings together a group of emerging artists that imagine life turned inside out. By rendering visible the imagined, unseen and yet felt, a new generation of artists are responding to our hyper-transient and image-centric age by building new visual languages to form alternative paths to perception.
Although recognisable, the figures present in Sonya Derviz’s (b.1994) works are mined from the subconscious. Untitled (2022), from the Wise Young Girl series, continues the artist’s investigations into unspoken behaviours and the human psyche. Beginning with a research process involving the careful collection of source material, Derviz is interested in abstracting such information through the physical act of painting. ‘There is a difference between conceiving and realising a painting, because in the end, a painting is not an idea,’ she once noted, describing her intuitive approach. In this vein, her paintings – that evoke notions of isolation and abandonment – are worked and re-worked; their final appearance subliminally connecting images with sensations and memories.
An exhibition of works by Lewis Brander and Sonya Derviz
Organised by Hector Campbell
Collective Ending HQ, 3 Creekside, Deptford, London, SE8 4SA, 19th February - 19th March, 2022
First Light is a two-person exhibition of paintings by Lewis Brander and Sonya Derviz, 2018 graduate students from Goldsmiths and the Slade School of Fine Art respectively. In the intervening years post-art school, Lewis and Sonya have diligently continued to pursue and advance their painting practices, with Lewis having relocated to Athens and since returned, and with both having stoically weathered the past two pandemic-plagued years. This exhibition, therefore, the first in our 2022 programme at Collective Ending HQ, presents recent paintings that reward the prolonged, in-person viewing of old.
Lewis’ paintings capture fleeting moments and fading memories, approaching sentimentality as a subject matter in and of itself. Representational yet employing an avoidance of defined narratives or dictated interpretations, his blurred and faded depictions of crumbling Greek colonnades, lounging lovers or listless London skies capture a feeling as opposed to a fact. Charged with a deep-rooted love of hand-ground oils and a penchant for pure pigment, Lewis paints on raw linen or canvas to achieve subtle, muted tones and faint, hazy hues that resonate and radiate.
Sonya is a keen observer and documentarian of her own environment, emotions and lived experience. Grounding her artistic practice in the prolific gathering of found imagery, she fervently mines her collected source material, surroundings and own subconscious for inspiration. However, during the physical process of painting, Sonya embraces an innate intuition and inherent instinct for what is needed on the canvas. Imagination inevitable, each painting ends up as an exaggerated, altered or misremembered portrayal of their original influences.
In the summer of 2018, my first in London, I was busy getting to grips with the wealth of galleries, exhibitions and events the city had to offer. Naive, wet behind the ears and keen to immerse myself in this new and exciting world of emerging artistic opportunity, I visited the Slade School of Fine Art’s BA/BFA Degree Show, likely one of my earliest experiences of an art school survey of fresh undergraduates. Amongst the bounty of unbounded creativity on display one particular room stood out, containing fragile spiderweb cyanotypes and steampunk-ish assemblage sculptures alongside fleeting figurative depictions emanating from ethereal verdant voids and jet black holes. The former was the work of Harley Kucyck-Cohen (whose exhibitions, invariably with Lungley Gallery, continue to entice) and the latter were painted by Sonya Derviz.
From then on I followed the fledgling steps of Sonya’s career with much interest, including at a stellar debut solo exhibition at V.O Curations‘ original 93 Baker Street space and as part of a group exhibition of young painters hosted in an old HSBC bank on Brompton Road by the budding dealer Alex Vardaxoglou. It was there that alongside Sonya’s latest paintings I first encountered the work of Lewis Brander, then a recent Goldsmiths BA Fine Art graduate whose painting practice revolved around nude portraiture. I was instantly enamoured by the nuanced, romantic and respectful studies of the female form, and approached Lewis for what was to be my first curatorial project in the capital, late-2018’s Young London Painters at Arthill Gallery in West London. Sadly, following his recent relocation to Athens, and my financial inability to cover international shipping, it was not to be.
Over the intervening two and a half years I regularly wandered as to the whereabouts of both Sonya and Lewis, pondering the potential progression of their respective practices. Sonya continued to exhibit intermittently, and internationally, whilst also taking some time away from painting, while Lewis remained in Athens until early 2020, returning just in time for a life interrupted by lockdowns. Finally, and fortuitously, I reconnected with Lewis during a period of pandemic leniency later that year, and since discovering that he knew Sonya socially and that both were keen to re-establish themselves in London post-pandemic, we spent the last eight months or so in conversations that have spawned 'First Light’, our current two-person exhibition at Collective Ending HQ in Deptford.
Since 2018, Lewis has continued to advance a diaristic painting practice that documents his life and lived experiences. A sponge to his surroundings, there are evident Grecian influences within the artworks on display, many of which were in fact painted during his time abroad. Alongside self-portraits and portraits of his partner Isabel, ancient colonnade Acropolis architecture appears, as well as an Athenian street cat and the unmistakable blue and white stripes of the Greek flag, fluttering in the wind as to approach abstraction. Canonical, neo-classical sculptures are appropriated and adapted, as Lewis’s completed compositions are formed from collaged or combined sketches, from studies of statues that reside in Athen’s National Archaeological Museum. Antinous emerges as a dominant painterly protagonist, that young Greek lover of ruling Roman emperor Hadrian, who after his premature death by drowning was worshipped widely as a heroic figurehead. For guidance as to poise and pose, Lewis looks to post-war photographer Rolf Koppel’s erotic portraits of the male form, themselves inspired by Ancient Greek and Roman deified depictions of homosexuality.
Finally, skyscapes are prevalent, evidence of the artist’s penchant for painting en plein air in the parks of Athens or London, each rendered in oils on raw flax or linen that retain a surface textured with the trace of the warp and weft of their weave, only exacerbating their ephemerality, momentary memories captured on canvas.
An exhibition of works by Ann Greene Kelly, Dan Herschlein, Heidi Hahn, Kent O’Connor, Maja Ruznic, Patricia Ayres, Sonya Derviz and Waldemar Zimbelmann
633 North La Brea Ave, Suite 101, Los Angeles, 9th July - 1st August, 2020.