If you’ve heard of David-Ivar (aka Yaya) Herman Dune, it is most probably through his music, brought to public attention by UK DJ John Peel. But Yaya has also been producing artwork for the same period of time. He is currently exhibiting at the tiny Nivet-Carzon gallery in Paris’ 3rd arrondissement. His work focuses on historical figures and well-known characters, with Yaya’s distinctive blue yeti and well-known quotations bringing his work together.
The yeti is an interesting leitmotif to use. It is a foreign beast in a world it does not understand; lost in scenes from humanity’s past. Whether he be laid helpless on the floor or half submerged in water, Yaya’s yeti is a strange, naive being seeking answers from rhetoric and familiar faces. Using looming watercolour shadows and predominantly blue/green hues, the sense of being overwhelmed is an unexpected aftertaste. Text provides what should be a reassuring structure to the piece, but instead, scrawled through the images, the use of familiar sentences evokes confusion. Who are these people? Why have their words become quotations? What can they offer to a blue yeti?
Looking for intellectual comfort in great minds of the past, we are launched into cartoon scenes of Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin and Rashi de Troyes amongst others. But, moving through the exhibition, the yeti – the blue elephant in the room – is continuously “Calling out. Calling out out.” We find more questions than answers about our desire to be reassured.
The eighteen paintings and four sculpted masks are all petite pieces. Nothing is imposing in this exhibition, surprising given that the content features cartoon watercolour-sketched characters from Winston Churchill to Albert Einstein, and nearly always a blue yeti. I would even go so far to say that each piece is delicate, modest and especially interrogative.
The exhibition makes one want to know more about the artist himself, an especially intriguing character. Gallery owner Kristof Seys describes Yaya mystically as “Grand…on dirait un poète”. His music, considered by some as forward-thinking, may be his most well-known facet but his drawings are just as thoughtful. There is a great sense of fragility and an introspective philosophical mind at work. Yaya is looking to history to provide structure and answers, seeking moral consolation from great minds summarized in citations. But he isn’t quite there. Whilst the yeti looks on, helpless and confused, we too are looking for the right answer from our ancestors. We too feel like foreign beasts.