Years ago, Ard Doko made an appointment with Oscar and Farud from GO Gallery. The, at that time, 19-year-old artist already sold his graffiti-style work at another Amsterdam art gallery and was convinced he could also sell his work at the GO. Being one of the first in Amsterdam specialized in street art, Oscar and Farud did see some potential in him, but not enough yet. With the good advice “create your own style, develop yourself, find a story to tell and then return.” Ard Doko would indeed return.

Years later, the art of Ard Doko is indispensable in the gallery. His chaotic, dramatic, emotional but still somehow reassuring work sells. Is it the recognition we might all have when we look at the canvasses? Or maybe the eyes of the models who slightly look past you, even though you really want to be seen and share each other’s feelings for a second?

ard doko go gallery amsterdam

Between Pain and Pleasure is Ard’s first solo exhibition at the GO Gallery. I’m not sure if he followed Oscar and Farud’s advice. But he indeed developed and created his own style, but most of all he tells a story.

When I enter the exhibition and take a close look at the 15 new works from Ard, I notice that in a certain light, graffiti-ish tags shimmer through the white background of most of the works. Did he want to remind us where he started? “The tags probably stay, you always want to develop but will always carry a part of your own identity and how you wanted to start.” Ard tells.

ard doko go gallery amsterdam

He continues: “Four years after I invited myself to the GO Gallery and was send away to develop my own style, I met Farud and Oscar again at an art fair in Germany. They saw I made progression.”

“I developed my style by letting go. Letting go of the style I thought was cool when I was younger. I let go of what other people thought about me, about my work, about how they thought I would develop. At first, that style was dark. Later on, I discovered how I wanted to create a scene with a combination or maybe more an interweave between darkness and relief. Something people could more relate to, as we can all relate to the dark emotions we have, however, it’s hard for us to admit. I continued with that.”

The artist is now fairly modest, contrasts with how he first entered the gallery. But learning comes with the years. Ard, now 28, didn’t only steal the hart from Oscar and Farud, but many others too. I think it’s an interesting fact as Ard’s work shows so much emotion. Showing the type of emotion we’re afraid to show or receive in daily life makes Ard’s work almost commercial perfect. Is that the balance or fine line he’s searching for in Between Pain and Pleasure?

ard doko go gallery amsterdam

The works on show are typically for the style Ard developed the past years. But what stands out more than before are the abstract adjustments to the emotionally charged but ethnically perfect models. Bright pink, yellow, blue, in combination with sharp lines like Kandinsky, almost looking like confetti, are something I less noticed in previous work.

“Between Pain and Pleasure felt like the correct thing to do when I was asked by the GO. As with love and abstract art, I both find it very interesting but I don’t know how it works. That’s how the combination occurred: the positive effects of love but also the negative effects. Being interested in making more abstract work but at the same time finding it scary.”

The artworks touch me. They invite me to go back to feelings that are hidden away. At the same time, I realize that pleasure often comes with pain, or is it the other way around?

“I don’t specifically want to make a statement. Some topics are interesting to paint about but its not always a statement. But if one of my friends is experiencing something it does sometimes trigger me to reflect it in my art. I paint mostly about a feeling. The whole expo, but maybe all my work, work on both sides. If you’re looking for stratification and a deeper meaning, you’ll find it in my work, but if you don’t need that I hope you find it interesting as well.”

I ask Ard about why he has made the eyes of his work stand out so much, in a different way we’re used from him.

“If you highlight one specific feature, you automatically focus on that part instead of the rest of the body. It’s the same with a burka, you focus on the eyes, it’s the only thing you look at and identify with. I thought it’s interesting with painting, I can make one thing very realistic and the rest more graphic, abstract, visual. People still look mostly at the highlighted part even though there’s a lot to see.”

ard doko

When looking at Ard’s works, I see the pain. I see the pleasure. I’m not sure if the feelings his paintings give me are my feelings or his. Does he want to tell me something or do I want to be heard? One thing I know, the emotions that Ard’s work arouses in me, is the reason I wanted to write about art.

The exhibition Between Pain and Pleasure is on show till 6 July at GO Gallery Amsterdam.

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