Isolation & Immersion in Sleepwalker

As part of a partnership between the Gemeentemuseum and De Ateliers, DEBUT SERIES features new works by Alex Dordoy, on display in the Projects Room from August 27th until November 23rd 2014.

After a short few speeches given by the organizers during the opening, Alex sat down for a quick chat with the curator before the crowd could enter the room. As the attending audience was not mainly composed of digital natives, it seemed like there was a push for the speakers to give us ideas about the work before we encountered it, as if an older generation would be unsure how to approach work of a digital nature. It goes without saying that a common theme in the practice of artists today is appropriation as a result of globalized culture, but Alex’s work goes beyond just that. Isolation and immersion are important tensions in some of the works he has created for his solo exhibition titled ‘Sleepwalker‘ at the Gemeentemuseum.

Alex Dordoy / Work in Progress. 2014

First entering the long and narrow space of the projects room, your attention is immediately drawn to the paintings on the wall. These unequally sized and distanced objects originally derived from ipad screengrabs beckon the viewer to come closer to inspect if in fact, they are really paintings. From a distance they take on a clean and printed feel, requiring a skilled hand to blend fast-drying acrylic paint with a high attention to gradients of light and shadow on a large scale. They exude a blueish sadness and a confining loneliness devoid of place and time, except for a few signifiers like a dissected American flag. On closer inspection the thinly layered paint has been applied with a quickness echoing the speed with which the original ipad game is played.

In the form of cropped and separated panes they still remain united in relation to each other, reminiscent of how one would dismissively swipe through images in a virtual operating system. Opposed to constructing a total environment, Dordoy prefers to enhance restraint, choosing instead to make paintings of a flattened space. On one hand the viewers are detached, yet are invited to immerse themselves by treating them as life-sized windows looking out to an anonymous urban environment. In these ways Alex expands uniquely on something as ubiquitous as a virtual game played by millions.

In an almost supported contradiction to the quick completion of the paintings, the three jesmonite plinth pieces took many hours of work and weeks to make, in addition to the months of wearing into the objects on top such as the toaster or pair of sneakers. The finely embellished detail of the plinths with their rich graphic colors are starkly different to the subdued nature of the paintings. Gesture and trace is an important element in Dordoy’s works, both in the plinth objects as well as the paintings. Whether its an imprint of his own hand, or a pencil mark left behind from initial planning, there is a need to emphasize vulnerabilities in these commodified objects, some being more virtual than others.

Many of us now spend a majority of our daily lives engaged with our digital devices, playing games to recreationally pass time, isolating ourselves from the rest in our virtual immersion. In a similar way Alex is in short playing a game with us, asking us whether or not we will take notice or keep sliding by.

De Ateliers DEBUT SERIES has been made possible by Outset Netherlands with the support of the Niemeijer Fonds Foundation.