Dolly Thompsett

Born in London, where she continues to live and work, Dolly Thompsett trained at the Byam Shaw School of Art (2000-2001) and Goldsmiths College (2002-2006).  Since graduating, with a PhD in fine art, she has had many solo shows, particularly with prestigious London galleries, most recently, Art First. She has featured in many group exhibitions in the UK, Europe and the US and was a finalist in the Jerwood Drawing Prize in 2008 and winner of The Artsway Prize in 2009. 
 
Thompsett's work is rooted in an intensely absorbed activity of image making. There is a sensuous concern to animate and transform the surface; to make it emotionally and intellectually evocative. Densely packed and layered narratives mix all kinds of personal and art historical references into a lather of associations and resonances. 
 

Stylistically Thompsett's pictures deploy skilful draughtsmanship and an elegant, highly wrought handling of paint. The sumptuous surface is layered and enriched with decorative embellishment. These are meticulously rendered images of densely woven incident, where fantastic tales of shipwreck, hazard and strange encounter are played out. Post-apocalyptic dream landscapes are stages for dark and mysterious scenarios; birds, animals, insects and tiny people inhabit ruins overrun by vegetal, corrupted Edens.


It is important to locate her work in a tradition of a specifically English sensibility, a pre-Freudian personal vocabulary of significant ciphers, characters and eccentric actors. Thompsett's paintings evoke Arthur Rackham’s illustrations, Lewis Carroll’s startling inventions, the obsessively forensic, botanical studies of Maria Sibylla Merian; the weird and wonderful characters of a Victorian opium-induced reverie. 
There is a pervading sense of a hallucinogenic, over-heated atmosphere of perceptual overload and distortion, which summon up the teeming mind-scapes of Hieronymous Bosch and Richard Dadd. The paintings echo fanciful tales of Victorian adventuring set to a background evocative of the sinister, gothic spirit of H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe. At the core of a whirlpool of associations and references lies this interest, a way of accessing and mediating the artist’s dreaming, a way of externalising the internal.

Thompsett's pictures arise out of the hermetic dream space of the artist’s studio, where she processes what she calls ‘the perculiar, the particular and the personal’. This is a space with metaphorically steamed up windows, a hothouse of activity. We could see her as a kind of Alice, continually asking questions, as she travels through her fantastically conjured and imagined landscapes.