Dordolo’s ‘paintings’ aren’t what they seem at first glance. Having worked as a casting and mould-making technician at Goldsmiths, he began to explore this methodology of the technique on his MFA at Slade School of Art where he developed new possibilities of presenting artworks, moving between painting and sculpture in what he termed ‘cast paintings’.
The technique used to make his work is challenging and leaves little room for error. Whilst bad painting can (often) be painted over, he works with a pigmented polymer compound which cannot be altered or covered once it has set. Using a casting technique, the methodology is the reverse of painting. He starts from the foreground and works his way to the background of the work. The sculptures are cast and void of the refinement seen in classical busts. The paintings are solid, and cast with a range of colours lacking nuance and depth. The image is flat, plain and often questions the role of representation with playfulness.
Dordolo has long been interested in the character of Pulcinella. Pulcinella is a classical character that originated in Commedia dell’arte of the 17th century and became a stock character in Neapolitan puppetry. Engineered specifically to be the star of southern Italy, he is described as “the voice of the people, as the direct expression of a people as lively and spirited as the Neapolitans is never questioned.” Dordolo is also interested in Dutch Painting from the 17th-18th century, in particular the ‘Tronies’ - a type of painting showing characters with exaggerated facial expressions and or stock characters wearing costumes. Like these characters, his cast heads and cast paintings can appear deceptive and grotesque.
In many ways Dordolo’s work could be seen as an exercise in ‘reverse practice’. There is little nobility to be found in the topics he captures. The works contain next to nothing in terms of celebration or glorification of their subject matter. And whilst he borrows common art tropes such as busts and painting, he only mimics their style but denies their
function and status and uses humour as a means to challenge hierarchies inherent to both the subject matter - like the character of Pulcinella, who leads us through this exhibition.
“Like Pulcinella, I observe. Like a bindlestiff, I collect, I gather my ‘things’ in my bag. I wrap it around my stick and walk off. Until the next stop.” Jean-Philippe Dordolo.