For her first solo exhibition at Weserhalle, French artist Johanna Dumet presents ‘Geil, oder?’, a series of bold still life paintings rendered in swathes of bright colour.
Painted in Denmark (the historic Fyrgården in Anholt) during the peak of Scandinavian summer, Dumet’s work is a testament to the endless light and vivid colours of the Northern European landscape. For this body of work, Dumet did not withdraw to the comforts of an indoor studio (though the Fyrgården at Anholt is stripped bare of modern conveniences), but instead situated herself in the centre of her inspiration, occupying the courtyard of the Fyrgården as her primary workspace. Thus exposed to the elements, she was obliged to adapt her work quickly to the changing light, wind, rain, birds and other uncontrollable elements of the natural world, finding a harmonious cadence with life beyond the studio. Lively and wild, she translates the vitality of the island’s rugged landscape to canvas, reflecting the outdoors in both rich and vibrant oil paints.
While in Denmark, Dumet’s painting process begins with applying colour to canvas (the same enhanced, seemingly synthetic colours she observes in her surroundings): light greens, dusty purples, bright yellows, oranges, reds, ultramarine blue and dark violet. After the colours are applied, Dumet considers the abstract and distorted forms she has inadvertently created, reading into them various objects or situations she recognises from lived experience. These are mostly objects found in the house—a juicer, tea pots, fish baskets, a bottle of øl—as well as scenes from daily life, though her rendering of such quotidian material is far from banal.
Though Dumet paints what is around her, her work does not simply mimic life. Rather, she paints spontaneously, fluidly, and without constraint, the result of which is an elevated, seductive use of colour and abstract form that constantly plays with figuration. She is unconcerned about detail, and follows a rhythm of what comes naturally through her head and her hand, citing Jean-Michel Basquiat and Danny Fox as key inspirations to this process (particularly as they are each self-taught, and thus possess the artistic freedom she herself aspires to). Dumet does not attempt to correct form or colour, instead staying attuned to her sensitivity to nature, and maintaining a genuine delight in creative naiveté to avoid constraints or rigid expectations. She uses classical techniques in her work—painting with oils, preparing canvases with rabbit skin glue, mixing her own colours (one of which she produced using a pigment foraged on Anholt), even painting still lifes or portraits—but she keeps a fixed perspective on the whimsical and the contemporary, flirting a little with the psychedelic, the comic, and the peculiar, but importantly, not allowing her work to occupy the dusty shelves of art history.