This partition of exhibition spaces highlights a fundamental theme in Dammann‘s work: the relationship of painting to photography, what they represent; what must be and what can‘t be painted.
All shown works are based on photographs that were mainly found in soldiers’ photo albums. The watercolours and drawings however don’t constitute a series; they are individual, independent pieces, to be apprehended separately. Each work is autonomous and arises from the development of its own particular logic.
“ungeheuer/Liberators”, a large format water-color of approximately 180 x 290 cm, portrays a group of pilots depicted as dense white patterns that merge with the image of a pin-up girl drawn in graffiti-style on the nose of a giant bomber in the background. In “Grosses Weiss 2” three figures stand as silhouettes in front of a blaze. They are nonetheless uninvolved, as if fulfilled by some other kind of light. The scenarios are loaded in a peculiar way, not to be located with certitude. Accordingly, the exhibition’s largest water-color “Am Rand” – a river landscape at dawn – seems to be immersed in a process of dissolution, where the boundaries of the painting become, at some points, permeable. There is no certainty. Pictorial space, painting surface, color and drawing are involved in a constant interplay of concretion and dissolution.
The “Soldier Studies”, conversely, build a concluded series. Dammann shows here a series of 24 elaborately reproduced photographs – also coming from private albums – that present male soldiers who dressed themselves as women. The pictures, which show exclusively German soldiers of World War II, fluctuate between the slapstick rendition of their longing for the absent women and girlfriends, and the latent demonstration of homosexuality. These images contradict our clichés and stereotypes. They present the soldiers – one would rather call boys – as soft, vulnerable beings, oscillating between isolation and disappearance in the group; all of this against the backdrop of Germany’s World War II crimes.
Exemplarily, the difference between Dammann’s painting and photographic works becomes apparent in the “Soldier Studies” series: these photographs can’t be imagined as paintings. To draw or paint them would be unnecessary, if not impossible. The documental character of photography, in this case, is essential.
On the contrary, the photographic material that Dammann selects for his painting and drawings is, if regarded for its photographic qualities, mostly banal. They simply appear as unspectacular motifs , but there is something about the photos, something unseen, which is only visually revealed in the paintings. It is up to the viewer to decided whether to see in the painting the artist’s interpretations, or if there is some inherent content of the scene, beyond the visual, captured the moment the camera’s shutter was released.