Daniela Mohr, drawings, 2017
A bird, one might think, has innumerable feathers. Closer examination proves otherwise. Only so long as one does not reflect upon it, one can be like a child, who is told to draw a bird, and draws it with as many feathers as come to mind, or until the desire to do it simply passes, and thus creates herself the bird according to her own idea. Conversely, for instance, one can get to know an animal better by drawing it. And this is what Daniela Mohr does.
Yet what the Hamburg artist obviously cares about is neither the animal as an individual nor as a species. Rather, she captures it drawing in its mode of being in its particular place, in order to follow it from there into the possibilities of drawing and form: surface, structure, ornament.
That which is decisive is not the realism of the representations. When Daniela Mohr deals with an animal – preferably from a photograph than from nature – she transforms its world into an ensemble of structured, filled and empty spaces. She observes the animal in its habitat, without denying it its fundamental inaccessibility or incorporating it into a closed world view: indifferent and open to the world, present – yet self-sufficient.
The zoologist Jakob von Uexküll (1864-1944) found in his research on the relationship between animals and their environment that by no means all living things share the same world, but that each inhabits its own time and space. The fact that "we" do not share time and space with unicellular organisms, bees, birds, and chimpanzees is not a conclusion that is particularly surprising. And anyone who has ever talked to people will have noticed that no two of them are experiencing the same space or the same time.
One of the ink drawings by Daniela Mohr from 2017 shows an animal about to take flight, practically outside of the scene: a monkey and dog-like bat-like being, as it were, with a fluttering cape; its background consisting of stripes stretched all over the surface of the picture as mobile dashed bands drawn with a firm pen, forming a world around the animal, integration and firmness. The place where the most comes together here is the animal.
It hardly stands out from the background from which it is about to take off; seen from the crosshatching the lying animal and the non-animal part seem to lie without volume side by side on the surface. These co-worlds are partly drawn like cells under the microscope, partly bright and dark as sharply divorced as if the surfaces were covered with incrustations. In some drawings, the shapes are exposed on the surface, on others they are released into the ornament.
One sees a parrot placed under the feathery branch of a palm frond in a vortex of light and air, as if the whole world were moving where the animal is. The tension emanates from the canvas, as the result of the overwhelming impression of that movement to which the bird seems to oppose itself in the stretching of its own body. Here, the morphological similarity of the bird feather and palm leaf is exploited so that they do not merge with one another, but are thus determined by very different forces.
It is enough to look at a single feather dropped by a bird to be overwhelmed by how beautiful it is. And how incredibly well this has been done. A dynamism of the overpowering and contradictory characterizes all these drawings. An indicator of this is the gaze of the animals. They have eyes, but there is no empathy in them, they do not return anything. Nothing is learned about being a person by looking at an animal – apart from the fact that it does not look back.