Challenging and confronting elements of the traditional with Jean-Philippe Dordolo

Jean-Philippe Dordolo’s work never ceases to push the edge of art making. Instead of creating a painting on the surface of a canvas, he gives us the inverse, choosing to construct his composition on the backside, revealing the structural components beneath the canvas thread. Dordolo continues to challenge and confront elements of the traditional by creating work focusing on the process of producing art, as opposed to the end result. Working in sculpture, video, performance, and painting, one can find textural surfaces with vivid pigments in Dordolo’s art — not without a bit of humor.

The London-based artist’s solo exhibition “Fliegen ohne Flügel,”— or, “Fly Without Wings,” opens May 3rd at the esteemed Saatchi Gallery in collaboration with curator Kristian Day in London, featuring both his two-dimensional and three-dimensional work. Although Dordolo’s work is full of diverse mediums and materials, his singular aesthetic allows his work to talk with one another, forming a dialogue between each piece. The artist talks with us about the art included in the exhibition as well as his journey creating the work itself. Join us as Dordolo tells us about his beginnings in art to his current intentions within his practice.

AMM: Tell us a bit about your background and your formal training in art. When did you get into it?

JPD: I got interested in art early but then I acted on it rather late. It took me a while to find my feet. I did my undergraduate studies at Byam Shaw School of Art in London. It has been absorbed then closed down by Central St Martin in 2011. It was a great place so I feel lucky to have been there. I’m currently doing my postgraduate studies at the Slade School of Art in London.

AMM: You create work in a variety of media, such as painting, sculpture, and video. What material did you first start to work with? Has the transition from one medium to another happened naturally? 

JPD: I started training in photography. Then I began to make things. I don’t know if they all qualified as sculptures. After spending a while making objects, I became tired of accumulating material. It felt like a never-ending production line. I went on a short residency abroad and spent two weeks playing with performance/video. I find painting daunting. I admire it but I wouldn’t have a clue how to tackle it. I guess I’m really trying to use whichever medium will better convey a certain idea at a certain time.

AMM: How much experimentation took place before arriving at your current aesthetic? Can you tell us about how you got to this multi-faceted, yet cohesive style?

JPD: It took a lot of experimentation. In fact, I feel like that’s still what I’m doing right now. But that’s the fun part: when things aren’t yet fixed – either stylistically or aesthetically – and you find yourself teetering about, trying to find something that can’t always be translated into words.

AMM: Many of your compositions are interestingly split down the center and across the middle, alluding the back of a canvas. Can you speak a little about this? 

JPD: It’s because they are cast from the back of canvas! I find the back of things interesting. Whether we’re talking about the back of a painting, or the back of a sculpture. I came across several busts in the British Museum. They were fascinating. Their back was completely hollow but for some bits of armature. I like to look at them and imagine what the front looks like.

AMM: What kind of surfaces do you paint on? Do you use found objects in your painting practice? 

JPD: I have never used found object to paint on. And technically, I can’t really say I paint either. I have made moulds from the back of paintings. I apply a polymer compound which I pigment/colour to create an image. The result is contained within the format of a stretched canvas, rather than on top of it (like is usually the case with painting).

AMM: Humour is undeniably present in your work. What inspires you to bring a more playful approach in your work?

JPD: I’m not sure how or when humor creeped in. But I think it can be both a nice entry point for the viewers and a critical tool to reflect on the nature of things.

AMM: Congratulations on your solo exhibition at Saatchi Gallery, London, opening on May 3rd! Can you tell us about the works included in the show?

JPD: There are a variety of wall and floor based works. The wall works consist of cast paintings and drawings. They refer to still life, portraiture and explore the way we see or experience things – it’s a matter of perspective, and empathy. The floor-based works explore the idea of the bust. They are complementary to the wall pieces, yet they investigate the idea of surface in a different way. With them I think I tried to apply a finish that is closer to drawing.

AMM: Did you have any idea in mind for the show when developing individual pieces? Did you think about it as a body of work, or do you see each work as a stand-alone piece?

JPD: I hadn’t been thinking about it in terms of body of a work until much later. I started with one work, which lead to another and so on. I ended up with several strands, which informed and influenced what was coming next. It was a bit like a journey, and at the end of each single day I sort of decided where I wanted to go next. I think most works can function on their own. They also have a nice relationship to each other.

AMM: In your three-dimensional work, such as Der Kranich, or The Crane, there seems to be influences of design. Are your sculptures inspired by any elements of design or architecture?

JPD: I’m not sure how much architecture and design influences my sculptures. I find the idea of building structures that have the possibility to host sculptures interesting. I guess you could say there is a functional aspect to it. It’s the result of a pragmatic approach: how to display things, or how to organize them. It’s a bit like a sentence: noun, verb, adjective etc. Everything needs to be put in order (whichever way that is – the more screwed up the better). But I make things rather than use words. It all needs to be articulated in one way or another to find a sense in itself.

AMM: Many of your video pieces feature what appears to be your artwork, such as Gartenparty; or they feature you interacting with your artwork and materials.  When did you begin experimenting with video? Do you envisage these works as a type of performance?

JPD: I started experimenting with this type of work in the summer of 2015. I was tired of making things. I went on a residency in NY and I brought a lot of material with me to ‘sculpt’. But I ended up using my phone to film the idea of making sculpture, rather than showing a finished ‘sculpture’. It felt good, but I think it confused a few people who didn’t know what to look at.

Gartenparty was made during a studio clear out. The object in the video was not functioning on its own and needed something else. I think that carrying an action with it – however short it might be – changed it for the better. I hope. It was a good send off for the work before going to the bin!

AMM: Can you tell us about your process creating a time-based work such as video versus the process of creating a more static type of work like painting or sculpture? 

JPD: They’re all time based. But one involves getting dirty.

AMM: Are you working on anything new within your practice?

JPD: I am planning on scaling things up and pushing the drawing aspect of my practice, but still within a sculptural dimension. I don’t quite know how it’s going to plan out but I am excited to get on with it.

Find out more about the artist: www.jeanphilippedordolo.com  and his current solo show via www.kristianday.co.uk

Text and interview by Christina Nafziger for ArtMaze Mag.