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.