October 17 - December 07, 2019
“I go to the Clamart strain station, every night overturned by the Versailles artillery. We go to the Issy fort through a small slope lined with hedges. The path is full of violets smashed by the shells.”
Louise Michel – La Commune (1898).
Noël Dolla is smoking a cigarette on the last floor of a Parisian hotel. He is looking at two loving birds heckling, two blackbirds that don’t know heights. The exhibition title strikes him. This poetical phrase acts as a metaphor. That of the studio work, of the fear of doing and undoing, of the constant and intrusive doubts, the fear of failing, of running out of breath, of not renewing yourself, the feeling of standing on an edge artists experience everyday. To face fears and doubts, Noel Dolla has turned chance and constraint into principles of creation and constant transformations that allow him to avoid the pitfall of dogmas, fight boredom, put change at the heart of his pictorial research and elude specious formulas. According to Marcel Duchamp: “repetition is death”. Three colorful dots, 20m of tarlatan, a single color, a cross, a fold, a residue of smoke, constraints become matters of (de)construction on canvas and in space. The artist tries to constantly change his pictorial focal points to keep painting alive.
Noël Dolla used to climb. “On top of a cliff, you sometime look at your feet and feel like flying.” 1 You feel like– physically and psychologically- pushing yourself through the ascent, accepting the inherent unknown of the adventure, “never looking back or having regrets”. Chance, constraint and experiment are tools to constantly challenge the status quo, to deconstruct the quiet and reassuring framework, to break rules and keep painting from silently disappearing between the curtains, the coffee table and the sofa.
For his new solo exhibition at Ceysson & Bénétière, Noël Dolla is entirely restructuring space through painting. The latter is metamorphosed, deconstructed, saturated and rendered more complex by creating a landscape of white and translucent geotextile triangles. Like mops, pillowcases, bed sheets, handkerchiefs, washcloths, tarlatan strips and dishcloths, geotextile is an unworthy medium. Unstretched canvases of different sizes fill up the gallery space from floor to ceiling. These canvases are speckled with holes, like windows through which “we can no longer see the entire landscape and our perception is obstructed”. Artworks from various series especially selected for the exhibition are displayed behind these geotextile arrow slits. Viewers are required to make an effort to navigate through this setting of veiling and unveiling. Marcel Duchamp’s work Étant Donné remains a crucial reference for the artist. “You loose perspective with only a single point of view. Duchamp’s set-up forces the viewer to see the work in volume like a stage.” In a note, the artist adds that “it is thanks to this genius trick that, at the end of his life, Marcel Duchamp, as a result of an assiduous practice of craft, brought us back to the history of painting, without actually making any.”
On the surface of the fabrics, Noël Dolla plays with paint understood as a body. This body is literally blown up with an air gun. The violence of the blast creates what the artist calls his Flowers of evil. “It is a field of flowers where bodies, pieces of life, innards, limbs, eyes, shiny white teeth, jet black hair, brown skins and grey guts mingle. Colors were scattered on the canvas surface in a precise order. Several shots were necessary to spray these multicolor stains that lay the ground where sad and beautiful funeral flowers blossom.” 2 The artist’s unwavering political commitment contributes to the poetical dimension of the work. Noël Dolla’s Flowers of evil are marked with a date: May 14, 2018. 3
Julie Crenn, July 2019.
1. Unless otherwise specified, quotes are excerpts of a conversation with the artist conducted on July 1, 2019.
2. Writing is a crucial practice to Noel Dolla. To catch his thoughts into words, he writes personal notes along his researches. This quote is an excerpt of a note from April 7, 2019.
3. Journée sanglante à Gaza lors de la manifestation contre l'ambassade des États-Unis à Jérusalem. Le Monde, 15 mai 2018.
Note for the exhibition's title: "He looks back gratefully, - grateful to his wandering, his austerity and self-estrangement, his far-sightedness, and his bird-like flights in cold heights."
Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, all too human, 1878.
Ceysson & Bénétière
23 rue du Renard 75004 Paris