Andrej Dúbravský’s titles offer only a superficial way of interpreting his paintings, Boys Shower, Kissing, Two Boys in a Boat – yet his canvases are charged, vulnerable and other-worldly. Married through a muddied palette of greens, blues and yellows, this new body of work chooses the male nude as its central subject.
Often borrowing from the palette of his favourite art historical influences: Yellow Boys presents a cluster of nude bodies in yellow and blue – an ode to Vincent van Gogh. The forms are sketched fast, engulfed by frenzied lines, watery drips and splotches. While Yellow Boys exudes warmth and sunlight, Boys Shower, feels cold in comparison – their yellowed bodies turned a sallow grey. Andrej’s figures share a spectral nature: their skin appears almost translucent, applied in a diluted combination of acrylic, charcoal and oil pastel. Stripped of any distinctive characteristics, the nude figures are anonymous: their identical short cropped hair and dark sunken eyes make them indiscernible from one another. Taking compositional reference from the photographic archives of soldiers during World War II, the vulnerability of these homogenous bodies is counteracted in Longing and Boys Shower, as the figures look back at the viewer with a direct and confrontational stare.
Andrej’s time in Amsterdam was framed by the loss of his beloved cat, Alica, who went missing from his mother’s home just days into his residency. Devastated by the news, Andrej traveled home to Slovakia to search for Alica – with no luck. Returning to Amsterdam, Andrej began searching for Alica in his paintings. In Andrej and his cat 1, he renders his own face as a blurred, hazy ghost – in shades of green and bruised purple, embodying the pain he felt knowing Alica was lost to him. In his self-portraits with Alica, both him and his cat are displaced, floating in an abstract wash of colour. In fact, all of the figures in this series are displaced: swimming in inky abysses, untethered from reality, with no spatial context.
Displacement, then, is an overall atmosphere in the series – as if the figures, and Andrej himself have been plucked from their environments and dropped into these vertical expanses. Much like dear Alica, they are lost; finding their way elsewhere.
Written by Anna Eaves
Oil on canvas, 65cm x 54cm