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Dormice

i-D Magazine article: Talent borrows genius squeals: DORMICE

Rampantly heterosexual and totally wired, Dormice make ruckus and art in equal measures, inspired by a mishmash of cultural influences from the worlds of art and fashion, hung upon the slender shoulders of supermodels who probably have no idea they’re being used to underscore artists’ theories about social and cultural capital. “A beautiful woman is always beautiful, even if she’s dressed in shit. It’s also connected to who she is, her personality, and this is what separates models from supermodels. The supermodel has something else, charisma, something that is not only a physical presence but is also the emotional way she deals with people, or her mental capacity,” explains Heinrich Nicolaus, the Austrian-born elder half of this art duo. “Beauty is always about more than you see, and that is what art is for. Regarding woman and the whole phenomenon of fashion, there is still a great deal to be done. Fashion has nothing to give to art (in terms of content) but art has everything to give to fashion. A hundred years ago galleries had the same role that the flagship store has today: power and cultural focus. There is a lot of work to be done by artists in the fashion world. We have a lot to tell them about breaking taboos. Remember Toscani and Benetton? There are plenty of strategies. Dormice don’t provoke, we point out that art history tells us we are not inventing anything new.”
Clandestinely notorious for getting into intellectual property tussles with fashion houses we mustn’t name, Dormice came together in 1999 after Heinrich was a guest lecturer at an art college in Vancouver, Canada’s answer to Amsterdam, and found that the student who made the most arresting work ventured out to the studios only at night. This was Sawan Yawnghwe, who’d emigrated to Canada from Thailand at 13 and whose work methods informed the Dormice nom de guerre. “A very talented guy; at 16 years older I became something like a mentor to him. He came to meet me at the Basel art fair, where I went to work afterward, with his friend (and former Dormouse) Dougal, and asked to do something together. It was so strange that I said yes: I no longer believed in art but I did see the possibility in collaboration. What I didn’t believe was the idea of the genius-hero sitting in a studio suffering and painting, a nonsense idea of creativity. Now it’s all about connections, networking and communication. And I said we had to be called Dormice because of how hyperactive we were to become at night.”
Sawan likes making art because it constantly renews itself and is a reflection of who we are, he attests. “It’s the mirror for all our wishes and desires, which right now seems to be all about consumer dreams. It’s the ultimate renewable source. But on the other hand it’s like being in a band: sometimes we question our credibility and ask ‘what the Hell this is all about?’ When Heinrich and I met he freaked me out: I was only in the class because I was after this girl and thought I was already too good to be there, like everyone else who was used to being the best artist they knew. In my experience you got the girl by having the best paintings in the space, but I never went to the classes. Then I heard he had a really big studio so I took my chances and asked if I could stay there.”
Sawan In A Room With Girls in St Tropez portrays the artist as mack daddy and is actually a reference to a Basquiat. Work like this is typical of their hormonal humour and irreverence. “We try to change these things to our own aesthetic; it would be a waste of time to merely pastiche advertisements,” Sawan sighs. “Often, our titles are the result of game-playing and mental gymnastics between me and Heinrich, we write stuff down and constantly add to it. My favourite part of being in Dormice is the whirl - that I’m able to go to Europe to do my job. We consider ourselves based in Italy ever since the beginning, when Heinrich was more of a maestro to me. I started the fashion thing back in Canada, which is far away from where the fashion industry happens, so it was important to have a closer view.”
Dormice combine classical references with imagery straight out of newspapers and glossy magazines as if updating the concept of the Renaissance portrait; signifiers like cats and other indicators of status appear throughout a prolific, vaguely naughty body of work. Thrillseekers and trainspotters will be equally piqued by a host of references from Leonardo to Picabia, there for the thieving. “Art has lost, at a certain point, the leadership of communication,” Heinrich claims. “It went into other channels, so we’re asking which images are strong and global. Of course you notice icons of beauty and destruction. The most powerful icon of beauty is the supermodel; it’s not just as an icon of beauty, it’s also a kind of cult.” It’s a premise familiar to aficionados of John Currin, whose virtually pornographic remixes of Dutch masters applied to a modern jet-art crowd appear to sell aspirations rather than the criticism implied of the guildmen and their wives in 17th century portraits, or Jeff Koons’ overt, extrovert links between art, capital and commerce. Dormice realise it was ever thus and hammer the point relentlessly home in chaotically sexy paintings. It’s also important for them to work in studios in Florence, because of the connections to the Enlightenment, the beginnings of serious art patronage and the city’s historical role as a commercial crossroads since the days of Marco Polo.
Heinrich can’t hold off making art either; as he speaks he adds to a painting inspired by a Renaissance garden. “Right now I’m painting a strange thing that I found in a book about gardens of the Renaissance – there’s a configuration which is like a yin and yang sign.” Many people would be surprised that these symbols existed in Western currency long before the 20th century boom in their influence; part of the fun Dormice promise is the satisfaction of reference-point uptake. “I’m dealing right now with what is coming from the East into the Western world. We always think there’s two systems: the Eastern world and the Western world, and this only leads to a clash of cultures, which is totally shit,” Heinrich complains. “I’m just trying to do a work about this because I don’t like closed systems, we’re all terrestrians, citizens of the world.”
With nearly eight years bubbling under as a nocturnal force, Dormice are attempting to come blinking out into the glare of publicity, mixing it up with commercial worlds they’ve only so far interrogated from the sidelines, like journalists at a press conference. The next step is more ambitious, with approaches made to designers and models to appear in their paintings; they’re in talks with Daria Werbowy to star in a campaign that is first accessed by portraiture and they’re looking for designer patronage from some new de Medici of schmutter. Wrapped up warm in layers of meaning, soon we’ll be even more transfixed by the cool runnings of the mice that roared.

Partitas

Partitas

by Sawan Yawnghwe
Oil on canvas
60 x 72 inches

£8,000

To buy this painting or for more information please email: fraser@agallery.co.uk

Sonatas

Sonatas

by Sawan Yawnghwe
Oil on canvas
62 x 72 inches

£8,000

To buy this painting or for more information please email: fraser@agallery.co.uk

Summer

Summer

by Sawan Yawnghwe
Oil on canvas
36 x 48 inches

£4,000

To buy this painting or for more information please email: fraser@agallery.co.uk

Nuit

Nuit

by Sawan Yawnghwe
Oil on canvas
30 x 40 inches

£3,500

To buy this painting or for more information please email: fraser@agallery.co.uk

Spring

Spring

by Sawan Yawnghwe
Oil on canvas
36 x 48 inches

£4,000

To buy this painting or for more information please email: fraser@agallery.co.uk

Winter

Winter

by Sawan Yawnghwe
Oil on canvas
36 x 48 inches

£4,000

To buy this painting or for more information please email: fraser@agallery.co.uk

Autumn

Autumn

by Sawan Yawnghwe
Oil on canvas
36 x 48 inches

£4,000

To buy this painting or for more information please email: fraser@agallery.co.uk

Stick to reality-Stuck in reality

Stick to reality-Stuck in reality

150 x 180 cm
mixed media, acrylic and oil on canvas

£11,500

To buy this painting or for more information please email: fraser@agallery.co.uk

What is the title of that movie again

What is the title of that movie again

160 x 110 cm
acrylic on canvas
£9,500

To buy this painting or for more information please email: fraser@agallery.co.uk

the development of abstract art

the development of abstract art

Oil on canvas,
150 x 126cm,

£10,000

To buy this work or for more information please email: fraser@agallery.co.uk

St Tropez

St Tropez

Oil on canvas,
180 x 130 cm,

£11,000

To buy this work or for more information please email: fraser@agallery.co.uk

Café avec chinoiserie

Café avec chinoiserie

140x100cm,
Oil on canvas,

£8,500

To buy this work or for more information please email: fraser@agallery.co.uk

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