Noël Dolla

From March 6th to August 2nd 2009

With “Léger vent de travers”1, the MAC/VAL proposes the first great exhibition in France Noël Dolla, from March 6 to August 2, 2009 in Vitry-sur-Seine. Noël Dolla basically has a free-ride mentality! He’s an artist who has never managed to stick to a sole manner of painting for a long time. His work is full of experimental methods, perpetual movement, and unexpected upsurges of painting games – from hot to cold, from a divide to an abyss, biological bends, and surreptitious returns … this is what to expect in his works.

A word from the Exhibition Curator

For more than forty years now, Noël Dolla has been engaged in a most singular pictorial undertaking. His body of work, and also his thirty-five years of teaching at Villa Arson, make him one of the most important artists in France today. Many specialists have analysed his art, and one need only consult their writings to get an informed view.

However, I would like to mention one or two words that, it seems to me, offer some essential pointers to Dolla’s world: the city of Nice, painting, women, fishing, the domestic, rebounds, masks and lures. But also, memory. In fact, all Dolla’s work is about memory and remembering. The memory of the actions and works that came before it. Memories of the studio, of its tools, savoir-faire and techniques. And, at the same time, a constant questioning of these memories, a forgetting. Amnesia. From the outset, Dolla has proceeded in series, reprising and reconnecting. His work appears to be articulated (torn?) between two seemingly opposing tendencies: a radical deconstruction of painting and its concepts, resources, purposes, tools and histories, and the artist’s subjective and even personal or extravagant involvement in his art. He likes to state that he steers between Supports-Surfaces and Fluxus.

The painter (his daily life, places he has been to and people he has met, his political positions, his reactions, what irked him and pleased him and anguished him, his joys, the tragedy and farce – his life story) is present throughout, yet masked; hidden. The retrospective curated by Christian Bernard at MAMCO, Geneva, in 2003, very appropriately put the emphasis on the rhizomatic (to say the least) quality of Dolla’s work, which has developed in a series of reactions, delays and iterations.

Moving on from there, ‘Léger vent de travers’ [Light Crosswind] focuses on recent developments (2002–2009), illuminating these with a series of historical flashbacks. As it now stands, this show features some hundred works in a display specially conceived for the gallery at MAC/VAL. The recent works are thus articulated around the edges of the space and on two added picture walls, while this sequence is punctuated by three enclosures, three modules or zones of memory whose respective themes could be defined as follows:

1. The development of Dolla’s work over the decades.
2. The conceptual and theoretical issues informing Painting.
3. Personal memories and family context.

Life, of course, is never that clear-cut, and this neat scheme of things is regularly nudged from its linear path by moments of friction, resurgence or recall, like light crosswinds.

Frank Lamy
Exhibition Curator

Petit Journal

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Presentation

With “Léger vent de travers”1, the MAC/VAL proposes the first great exhibition in France Noël Dolla, from March 6 to August 2, 2009 in Vitry-sur-Seine. Noël Dolla basically has a free-ride mentality! He’s an artist who has never managed to stick to a sole manner of painting for a long time. His work is full of experimental methods, perpetual movement, and unexpected upsurges of painting games – from hot to cold, from a divide to an abyss, biological bends, and surreptitious returns … this is what to expect in his works. For the Val-de-Marne Contemporary Art Museum, Noël Dolla has brought together recent and older works, contriving an artistic invention where the visitor is asked to follow in the foot-steps of an intrepid painter.

With “Léger vent de travers”1, the MAC/VAL proposes the first great exhibition in France Noël Dolla, from March 6 to August 2, 2009 in Vitry-sur-Seine. Noël Dolla basically has a free-ride mentality! He’s an artist who has never managed to stick to a sole manner of painting for a long time. His work is full of experimental methods, perpetual movement, and unexpected upsurges of painting games – from hot to cold, from a divide to an abyss, biological bends, and surreptitious returns … this is what to expect in his works. For the Val-de-Marne Contemporary Art Museum, Noël Dolla has brought together recent and older works, contriving an artistic invention where the visitor is asked to follow in the foot-steps of an intrepid painter.

The Mac/Val presents the first big exhibition by Noël Dolla in France since his retrospective at the Mamco in Geneva in 2003. He’s a major French artist who, since 1967, has been exploring both painting limits and the status of artists. This artist defines himself as painting “like an abstract painter”. He disproves distinctions between abstract and figurative art, by appropriately transposing the issue of abstraction from being a problem of style to one of method and model.

With time he realized that space had no direction in abstract painting and that it was, consequently “free-falling”. But, one thing which never changed in his work was that regardless the direction he chose, he always made sure that history and memory played a role. “I’ve always been obsessed with avoiding repetition and that’s why I’ve taken to several practices but always understanding estimating how an artistic move is conditioned by what was done previously …”.

Noël Dolla never takes anything for granted. Nothing is planned or predictable. He plays with paint, perpetually redefining any rules which exist. This is undoubtedly what gives his work this disconcerting freedom, this fragrance of intelligent provocation. Dolla invents a basic abstraction which verges on kitsch, transforming common-place items into art material – mops, hankies, rooster feathers, tarlatan fabric, lures … But the works which made him well-known in the sixties are in fact very far from the characteristic construction of the Supports-Surface movement, serving as the primary reference for their initial interpretations.

Using life as material led Noël Dolla to work directly with nature.

Without making any definite claims or vague attempt of feelings, the artist pushes us to question ourselves about our way of looking, forcing us to regard painting in a multitude of available spaces. “There are two phases in art – that of life and the artist, and that of the public and the collector … these people never meet each other unless there’s an exhibition,” affirms Noël Dolla. He’s been teaching at the Villa Arson in Nice since 1974 and professes belonging to no art group or movement, and even if he teaches, he doesn’t try “giving lessons”.

Frank Lamy, from the Mac/Val invites him for an exhibition which is designed around (on the inside) more recent productions from 2002-2009 and some older, even historical, works. They are set up in three bird traps resembling areas of the brain, memory intrigues.

The exhibition is complemented by representative works such as “le grand leurre” or, for gardens, a drying rack or a garden shed – household or familiar objects representing the history of painting or his own personal background.

1 * His title “Léger vent de travers” evokes the artist’s state of mind which is just as melodramatic as sensitive (both a trouble-maker and profoundly human) and alludes to a play in 1991 created for the Kaohsiung Museum in China.

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