The ‘MYTH IN THE WORK OF TWO GREAT ARTISTS’ is one of our online ISSUE segments, head to ‘THE ONCE UPON A TIME ISSUE‘ for the complete experience and set of images.
Tribute to Dennis Scholl & David Benforado
Article NEFELI PAPANASTASOPOULOU @NEPH.ELIE
Dennis Scholl grew up near Fulda. He studied from 2002 to 2007 at the Hamburg University of Fine Arts with Franz Erhard Walther, Andreas Slominski and Michael Diers.
Today his work is shown internationally in museums, galleries, art associations and art fairs. His paintings are also represented in private and public collections worldwide.
He has been represented by Galerie Michael Haas in Berlin since 2014.
In his black and white drawings, Scholl is a master of storytelling. Faces, bodies, plants are all meeting to create a collage of myths. By playing with sharpness and blur, the image has amazing tension, sensuality and beauty. The focus is most of the times on the human figure. In some of Scholl’s drawings, his protagonists refer to figures from literature, history or philosophy, at the same time using themes, symbols, and figures from Christian iconography and tradition.
Baroque era, psychoanalysis of Lacan, Georges Bataille and Rainer Maria Rilke. All of them can be seen in Scholl‘s art.
Hendrick Goltzius, Alberto Savinio and André Masson, Pierre Kłossowski, Balthus are some influences for the artist, varied and interesting.
In the last few years of his artistic activity, Scholl’s art has changed. The painting form became larger and larger over the years until the protagonists themselves were life-sized.
In 2015, the artist introduced colour into his work, slowly moving from red chalk drawings to pastels and then to coloured pencils. This added another new dimension to his work.
Scholl initiated a new phase in his artistic work in 2017.
After almost 15 years in which the artist worked exclusively with pencil and later with colored pencil, he has since also worked with oil on canvas.
Acteon/ a painting of unimaginable beauty, taken from a wild and tragic myth.
Actaeon, the son of a shepherd and raised by the centaur Chiron, angers the goddess of the hunt, Artemis, who transforms him into a deer and the dogs devour him. A myth that is represented in -not only- the Renaissance, it is a point of writing, visual art and thinking about intellectual and non-humanity after its own existence. Callimachus writes that Actaeon sees the goddess naked bathing and she curses him with the first word that comes out of his mouth to transform into a deer. He calls his dogs and falls into a trap of reckless suicide. He asks the gods for help but it’s too late.
The grief-stricken dogs find solace in an effigy of their master made by the Centaur. In Bacchae it is mentioned that Artemis punishes Actaeon because he sneers that he is a better hunter than her.
Another version of the story is that he fell in love with her and wanted to marry her. In others she transforms him and his own dogs eat him. This beguilement of the goddess, likewise from other gods, such as Athena, becomes a theme of war and love at the same time, and in Scholl’s painting all these are described with an excess of skill and seduce us.
His painting of the same name describes the violence of the myth amidst beauty and love.
Everything happens amidst the peace and relaxation that one finds only in the depths of a dense forest. The light is sweet and warm, it sneaks in between the leaves and the shadows soften the sweetest hour of the day, the hour when the goddess sends her unfortunate admirer to his death by his most faithful friends. She watches him white and transparent, pure, a reading of Artemis paradoxical as it comes against her dynamic and Amazonian presence. In the midst of the beauty of nature, Actaeon is preparing to wear the mask of the deer, so we see the moment of transformation that particularly concerns the artist. At the moment of the change, and a little before that, death has embraced him.
His light-colored dogs eat him, rush at him, before he even becomes a deer, as if this violence comes from their endless love. The painter manages to represent this mythical greatness with excellence without fear and with great passion, touching the absurdity of these stories, which later become philosophy and deeply touch human existence. Man is all this paranoia of myths, he is beautiful among a wildness that is impossible not to exist and feel.
When art manages to touch these qualities of ours without shame and puritanism, we can see and understand it. It stops being in front of us and becomes a point of engagement and of course, thinking.
The first drawing of the Actaeon , black and white, drawn with charcoal, is rendered as if the next one describing an entire book, that is, with just one suggestion, with one detail it allows us to understand the work exactly. The deer wounded by the dog that bit it, full of blood, in front of the goddess who looks almost ecstatic, with the moon in her hair gives us the essence of the myth exactly. This work seems to be preparing the next one, like a first design, but by no means unfinished. It looks like the first stanza of the poem that prepares us for what we will read, how much we will get involved, for its beauty. These two works describe a wild myth with the sweetness of a fairy tale.
David Benforado has a long-held interest in pigments and their application, which is an integral part of his creative process. He treats colour like a living organism. The canvas becomes a memory map of the painting actions; The work is realised by deploying at times the use of burning and scraping of surfaces and at others of repainting and applying transparencies.
Selected Exhibitions (2014-2023)
2022: Cataclysms, curated by Eleni Varopoulou, Kourd Gallery, Athens
2021: De Terra e de Bentu, curated by Emiliana Sabiu, Una Boccata d’Arte, Fondazione Elpis, Sardinia
2015: Between Sound and Silence, Jewish Museum of Greece, Athens
2014: Part 1: Between Sound and Silence, curated by Eleni Varopoulou, Griechische Kulturstiftung, Berlin
2023: Wo man sich trifft, curated by Jurriaan Benschop, Emsdettener Kunstverein, Germany
2021: A Grammar of Gestures, curated by Jurriaan Benschop, Kourd Gallery, Athens
2018: Poetry of Memory, Museum of Contemporary Art of Crete, curated by Eleftherios Ikonomou, Rethimnon, Crete
2015 & 2016: KunstAutomat Projekt, Jewish Museum, Berlin
2023: Jurriaan Benschop: Why Paintings Work, published by Garret
2022: Jurriaan Benschop: Waarom een schilderij wekrkt, published by Van Oorschot
2022: Cataclysms: David Benforado, published by Cube Art Editions & Kourd Gallery
2021: Una Boccata d’ Arte 2021, catalogue published by Fondazione Elpis, Galleria Continua and Threes Productions
2019: The Poetry of Memory, catalogue published by Contemporary Art Museum of Crete
Ariadne made Theseus promise that he would take her to his homeland and marry her. Then, she gave him a skein of thread, the “Myth of Ariadne”, so that when Theseus entered the labyrinth he could untangle it, so that he could then, after killing the Minotaur, find the exit.
The «Epicenter»-or thread of Ariadne
David Benforado’s painting, “Epicentre,” exudes chaos and darkness, reminiscent of the Minotaur’s labyrinth in ancient Crete. It showcases contrasting colour paths, repetitive patterns of light against the black backdrop, and circular movements that evoke the thread of Ariadne—an escape plan within the Minotaur’s prison to save her beloved. In the center and high close-up of the painting, the creature is portrayed as struggling and falling amid the surrounding chaos, attempting to unravel the knot and raging, prepared to devour anyone at its mercy. Above that, there are forms resembling human beings, the “kings” of his labyrinth-prison. The bodies appear frightened or dismembered, positioned below the animalistic creature.
The painting has borders inside the frame, with painted strokes creating the claustrophobic feel of the labyrinth. The artist effectively communicates this emotion and an understanding of his inspiration through his work, evoking fear in his audience. The focus is on the Minotaur and his myth, as everything seems to depend on his moods, how wild they are, and how remorseful he may be for the prey thrown at him in his labyrinth. Imprisoned and alone, he is furious and truly helpless, potentially seized by the man he could kill himself.
Benforado draws inspiration from fairy tales and myths, identifying a common point in time for both, seemingly starting after a comparable event. The artist determines the time frame in which he will place his audience, rendering the viewer’s experience unique.