SOPHIA DOMAGAŁA




RECENT EXHIBITIONS


2023, Winter Salon, HaverkampfLeistenschneider, Galerie, Berlin, 2023 Places and Events, curated by Stefka Tsaneva, König Galerie, Berlin, LIBERTE (ETRE-BELLE), Mountains, Berlin, DE 2023, solo, sHoddy / schäbig, Stallmann, 2023, HEAVEN AND HELL, Marburger Kunstverein, Marburg, DE, 2023, solo, In Line With, Stallmann, Berlin, DE, 2022, Apples and Lines, Stella, Berlin, DE, 2022, Beggars, Mountains, Berlin, DE, 2021, solo, Schwarze Streifen auf Blau, as part of Wie baut man Brücken über unruhiges Wasser?, curated by East of Elsewhere, Rostock, DE , 2021, Piece of Pen II, Rundgaenger by Schierke Seinecke, Frankfurt am Main, DE, 2021, Weltaneignung, with Lotta Bartoschewski, ad/ad, Hannover, DE, Assisted Survival, Mountains, Berlin, DE, 2020, Stupidity Is Not Home (with Ali Altin), SP2, Berlin, DE, The mirror is my mother, Studio Picknick, Berlin, DE, 2019, solo, It was all a Dream, curated by Laura Helena Wurth, Haus am Lützowplatz, Berlin, DE, 2019, The surface of ShrimpThe Gesture of Soap, curated by Zoë Claire Miller, Funkhaus Nalepastraße, Berlin, DE, 2017




2022 Stiftung Kunstfonds NEUSTART KULTUR Stipendium

2021 INITIAL Sonderstipendium Akademie der Künste

2017 Preis der Nationalgalerie (Longlist)

2014 Nominierung Berlin Art Prize (Honorable mention)

2014 Goldrausch Künstlerinnenprojekt art IT

2011 Artist in Residency, MetroArts, Brisbane, AU



1981* Berlin, DE

NEWTON DRAWINGS

A selection of drawings on book pages from the Catalog “Helmut Newton - Pages from the Glossies, Facsimiles from 1956 - 1998”

Permanent marker, wax painter on book pages, 1 ~ 200, A4 and smaller, 2023 - ongoing

WORKS ON PAPER

Selection of drawings, ink, watercolors, pencils, wax painter on paper, A4, 1 ~ 400, 2021 - ongoing

REAL ENOUGH TO RIDE


If you read between the lines, Sophia Domagala’s first exhibition at Mountains pays subtle tribute to Pati Hill (*1921-2004), who explored the relationship between image and text, largely by using the photocopier as an artistic instrument. Words like lust, why and lucky or happy in peach or pink block-letters are just discernible in Domagala’s paintings, almost receding into the lighter washes of color behind them. Hill is a deep source of inspiration for Sophia Domagala, a kindred spirit even. As such, these almost invisible words are easily entangled with the late American artist’s own play with in/visibility by using a Xerox machine (in the 1970s, a secretary’s tool) to make images of domestic objects and in so doing, create a visual language for the invisibility of women’s labor. Beggars, the title of Domagala’s first exhibition at Mountains, is lifted from the last line of Hill’s poem “Craters of the moon!”: “I would have liked this picture printed on pink paper, but if wishes were horses then beggars would ride.” There’s something folky, western even, about this idiom that knocks fantasy in favor of realism or hard work. The image is wonderful though—wispy wishes galloping.


Domagala’s acrylic stripe paintings are in part a tale of the pandemic, as she had occasionally painted lines before, but has resolutely painted nothing else since a kind of breakthrough in spring 2020. This focus is a testament to how constraint can be expansive, as nuance and permutations in color and line have opened up a vast field of possibility. What makes these paintings so intriguing is a central tension between a seemingly regular structure and the deviant or nonconforming quality of the paint that comprises that framework. The notion of slippages or inconsistencies falls short in describing this dynamic, as the surface is built from these aberrances. Irregularities as the rule, rather than a digression from it. Take the large-scale Verwandeln, 2021, for instance, in which vertical segments of thinly-washed pink, fading from bubble gum to a dustier tone, are speckled with traces of brushstrokes, accidental marks and drips. The pink is interrupted by alternating black bands of varying width that stand askew, almost teetering, and not quite intersecting with the smaller black lines at the top of the canvas. Taken as a whole, the impression is cohesive, the effect meditative and the horizon line where the two sets of lines meet, but don’t conjoin, taps into something essential: a disruption of the illusion of infinity. The most human of revelations. Last time I saw Sophia, she was carrying a copy of The Tibetan Book of the Dead.





One could, of course, locate Domagala’s stripes in an art historical lineage of abstraction—Barnett Newman’s (*1905-1970) zips, Agnes Martin’s (*1912-2004) fine-lined grids, Gene Davis’ (*1920-1985) vibrant color fields, Bridget Riley’s (*1931) hypnotic compositions, Daniel Buren’s (*1938) pristine 8.7 cm stripes etc—perhaps positioning her works as a punkish send-up of all this weighty 20th century baggage. But what these paintings have to bear on a sense of humanness feels more pressing. Questions of personality and voice, but also what it means to be a body, what it looks like to keep on keeping on, are the territory of these works. It’s a grounded perspective on day to day life and an unassuming approach to spirituality. The paintings’ tone is vaguely reminiscent of Eileen Myles' evocative, nonchalant perceptiveness. Light System VII, 2021, the latest in a series of medium-format works in acrylic, with its splash of orange and trails of splatter against a net-like structure of yellow, black and white lines, could almost be an abstraction of Myles’ poem “Yellow Tulips,” which is printed in this catalogue and ends: “I guess they were like heads poking in from another world. How do you like Wednesday, you beautiful things?” There is a sense of a crossing, of peering into or perhaps out of another world, in this recent “Light System” series, in which a spindly structure of lines contains increasingly gestural explosions of color. They’re like windows, charged with the potent possibility of the threshold. They’re like dreams, wishes, desires—maybe ungraspable—but here, imagined in paint,they’re real enough to ride.


Camila McHugh


Camila McHugh is a Berlin-based critic and curator from California. She is a regular contributor to Artforum.

Installation views from the show BEGGARS at Mountains Gallery, Berlin, 2021

Installation views from the show HEAVEN AND HELL, Marburger Kunstverein, 2023

At first, there was a pair of hands. One placed protectively over the other, holding each other tenderly. With Hände [Hands], 2019, Sophia Domagala registered the memory of the intertwining of hands: first sculpted from wet, earthen clay; then fired twice, burning in hell, and glazing in heaven, before solidifying into an eternal embrace. In 2020, these hands developed a life of their own. Fine lines appeared over notebook pages, photographs, prints, and jeans. Always extending from top to bottom, the same small gesture being repeated infinitely, meditatively. With intent—and yet, without a ruler. Some lines were coherent, others stopped along the line. Cracks and ripples started to appear. Sometimes, a second colour traced the movement of the first. But ‘where to ?’, you will ask. For a line, like a point, is elusive. It’s a fact of location, not a form in itself. In “Heaven and Hell,” we encounter a little more than fifty of these linear evocations, mostly made up of medium-sized acryl and denim paintings that line the two floors of Marburger Kunstverein. They appear playful, tinged in their Toblerone yellow, Wrigley’s green and Hubba Bubba pink. While delving into the scents and memories of our childhood—those of our favourite sweets, chocolates, and bubble gums—we realise that Domagala gives us not paintings, but the emotions and memories saved from books, photographs, and other narratives. There are, for example, the dried rocket cress and St. John's wort flowers in Lines over Flower, 2022; the knickers in Panties over Lines, n.d.; or the flower-shaped cut-outs from Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in Light System 02_22, 2022. While Lines and Flower, 2022, evokes ox-eyed daisies and the fortune-telling “He loves me…he loves me not…”-game of our youth. Here, the desire to preserve something meaningful prevails.

Pressed between two pages of a book, like a makeshift herbarium file, meaningful moments stay with us forever, quite literally touching us with their haptic format, rather than perishing in overcrowded image folders on our smartphones. Then, there are the jeans, sewn together rather than piled up on a chair, in the series Lines over Jeans. Reminiscent of Ann Brashares’s novel series, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2001), their visible stitches and embroidered surfaces reveal the wound scraps, the bittersweet moments interwoven in the fabric of our lives. Meanwhile, in Lines over Big Moments II, 2022, Domagala has incorporated four (independent) text passages: ‘Writing after I,’ ‘Only then do I,’ ‘Catch fire I,’ and ‘To my bones I’, from Clarice Lispector’s final novel, A Breath of Life (Pulsations) (1978). Like Olga Borelli who structured and organised the mountain of fragments left behind by the Brazilian novelist after her passing, breathing new life into her words, we need to read between (or rather beyond) the lines in Domagala’s paintings to make sense of the clues she left behind. And indeed, a writerly spirit emanates from the exhibition: some of the paintings remind of loose, unstrung notebook pages or extracts thereof, like Light Systems I, 2021. Some of these scraps, such as Light System V, 2021, appear to be speckled with coloured pen doodles bleeding through the pages. Think of French philosopher Roland Barthes who, in The Empire of Signs (1983), mused, ‘where does the writing begin ? where does the painting begin ?’, but also of Joan Didion and her essay On Keeping a Notebook (1968). For the American journalist and novelist reminded us that the process of note-keeping is often of an impulsive and compulsive nature and not necessarily of factual value.

The second clue is the many photographs that appear throughout the show: one of the first paintings in the exhibition, Lines and flowers on Sieverding, 2022, establishes a link to Katharina Sieverding’s self-portraits. Known for her extreme close-up formats, as well as silhouette and contrast settings, the German photographer makes use of abstraction to achieve both a familiarity and a distance between herself and her audience. Similarly, Domagala often obscures, showing us only extracts or scraps and never (or rarely ever) revealing the full picture. Meanwhile, Domagala’s more recent series, like Lines over Hands, 2023; Lines over Father and Child, 2023; and Lines over Child’s Face, 2023, have been inspired by the Depression-era photographers Dorothea Lange and Lou Bernstein and their intuitive approach to documenting and registering emotions and feelings. Lange, for example, often roamed the streets of Manhattan during her adolescence and learned to observe without intruding. For Lines over Hands, Domagala has appropriated the hand gesture of a Legong dancer in Java that Lange took in 1958 while travelling in Indonesia with her husband. Legong as a dance form thrives on an intricate movement of the hands and fingers: young girls learn the pointing of fingers, the twisting, the turning, the waving, and the contorting of hands from an early age to ensure that these specific poses burn into their muscle memory. In Domagala’s seven prints, Lange’s hand establishes a link to the gestural hand movements while screen printing: when the hand moves over the printing press from top to bottom, like the lines over some of her paintings. Think of Clarice Lispector who, in Água Viva (1973), mused, ‘I write in signs that a more a gesture than a voice. All this is what I got used to painting, delving into the intimate nature of things. But now the time to stop painting has come in order to remake myself, I remake myself in these lines. I have a voice. As I throw myself into the line of my drawing, this is an exercise in life, without planning. The world has no visible order and all I have is the order of my breath. I let myself happen.’ And this is where Sophia Domagala has drawn the line.


-----Maximiliane Leuschner, Art Historian and Writer based in London


Installation views from the show LIBERTE (etre-belle) at Mountains Gallery, Berlin 2023/24

Installation views from the show WELTANEIGNUNG at AD/AD, Hannover, 2021

Installation view from the show SCHWARZE STREIFEN AUF BLAU, curated by East of Elsewhere, Rostock, 2022

sophia.domagala@live.de

Publications

2023 Heaven and Hell, exhibition catalogue, Marburger Kunstverein, DE

2022 In line with, exhibition czatalogue, Stallmann, Berlin, De

2021 BEGGARS, exhibition catalogue, Mountains, Berlin, DE

Nothing is going to change my world, exhibition catalogue, Berlin, DE

2021 Whose world is this? The world is yours,

the world is yours it’s mine, it’s mine, it’s mine,

Palmpress Publishing, Hannover, DE

2015 Things go pass. Go things! Things go?, artist book, Berlin, DE

2014 Helium – Goldrausch, Berlin, DE

2012 My White Gangster, Edition Taube, Berlin, DE

2009 La Bonne Horse – Klasse Walter Dahn, Braunschweig, DE



Copyright, S.Domagala, 2024