Dolly Thompsett: A Thousand Years to Unpack

21 April - 21 May 2017

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. The Pontone Gallery is delighted to be exhibiting her recent paintings.

This 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 Densely packed and layered narratives mix all kinds of personal and art historical references into a lather of associations and resonances.


We see paintings that show a world of dream and fantastic reverie, some like the crowded, hallucinogenic topographies of Richard Dadd, others alluding to the haunted monuments of Piranesi, others still, present us with a lush landscape of rococo vegetation containing fleshy animal or human incident: bits of Boucher and Gainsborough break the surface and tease us with their associations. The artist's appetite for material sets up a slipstream into which all kinds of such references are dragged, assimilated and processed.


Stylistically the pictures deploy skilful draughtsmanship and an elegant, highly wrought handling of paint. Images of birds and animals inhabit a vegetative world of nests and florid tendrils, which has sometimes overrun an architectural ruin or landscape. The sumptuous surface is layered and enriched with decorative embellishment.


It is important to locate this work in a tradition of a specifically English sensibility, a pre-Freudian personal vocabulary of significant ciphers, characters and eccentric actors. They 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. 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.


These 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.