Ba da, Dodā
Solo Project with Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery
London Art Fair
18th - 22nd January 2017
Repeating rhomboidal modules tower skywards in myriad iterations, encapsulating the notion of the infinite. Inspired by Constantin Brancusi's sculpture, the 'Infinity Column', British artist Chris Agnew’s new series of drawings ‘Ba da, Doda’ employs his skills as a meticulous draughtsman, as the form of Brancusi’s Column is populated by the socialist apartment blocks that still dominate the Romanian landscape, a country in which he has lived and worked for the last five years.
The highly detailed pencil and watercolour on paper propose an alternate reality, where abstract ideological form is manifest as utilitarian structure. These Brutalist apartments are hemmed into the shape of Brancusi's Column, yet reveal surprising interventions – monolithic black stones, flying shards, plants growing out of dilapidated stone, ragged flags – alluding to the mysticism growing out of the cracks of such rigid ideology.
As the question of Europe is at the forefront of many conversations, and the status of many immigrants is questioned the world over, Agnew looks towards Brancusi: a Romanian who walked to Paris on foot, and became one of the most celebrated artists of the 20th Century, who entertained guests from his artistic and intellectual circle in the French capital with the traditional folk songs and cuisine of his Motherland, never wishing to return whilst it was still under Communist rule.
‘Ba da, Doda’ translates roughly as ‘Of course, my dear’. Doda, Doda was a popular Romanian folk song famously recorded by the singer Maria Tanase, whom Brancusi was rumoured to have been in love with. The song is about finding new company in a new place, and being willing to make sacrifices if it means staying with them.
The solo booth also features a brass inlaid wooden floor, building on Agnew’s work in scenography and set design in England, his background in interior and furniture design in Romania and his signature etching technique; engraving directly into traditional gesso panels typically used for icon paintings. The blackened wood floor, cut through with striking shards of brass, mirrors the shard motif present in Agnew’s etchings and drawings.
Text by Anna Wallace-Thompson