Daniel Dewar & Grégory Gicquel
Oak Relief with Man, Udders, and Vase, 2017
On loan to the exhibition Mammalian Fantasies at Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland
Curated by: Elena Filipovic
Daniel Dewar (1976, United Kingdom) and Grégory Gicquel (1975, France) create sculptural objects that combine traditional craftwork, figurative motifs, and a wildly surreal sensibility. For their first institutional exhibition in Switzerland, the British-French artist duo presents an ensemble of newly commissioned and recently constructed wood pieces in which the fragmented bodies of humans and other mammals appear. Using seemingly anachronistic production techniques, they carve a dislocated human arm or intestinal tract alongside an ox’s head or a giant Flanders rabbit onto wall murals, armoires, or sets of drawers. The results celebrate the slow and the analogue, rendering vague any distinctions between functionality, decoration, and aura.
For years, Dewar and Gicquel—who met in art school in 1998 and have collaborated ever since—have embraced the role of dogged amateurs, autodidacts. They taught themselves to work in unfired clay, ceramic, stone, weaving, and, most recently, wood, sometimes even first learning about and then building the very tools (a giant loom, a wood-fired kiln) required to be able to go into production proper. A single piece could take weeks or months, maybe years, of self-education and then intense labor. So important is this strategy that they once declared, There is no difference between the process of making and the object—an unusual position given the contemporary art world’s focus on commodifiable results. And while not acting as dilettantes per se (because they clearly do what they do with incredible dedication and seriousness), by choosing to switch materials and processes before they have ever fully mastered any one of them, they enact a deliberate refusal of “expertise” and create works that, as a matter of principle, are willfully imperfect.