Mario Dalpra

 

 

Mario Dalpra's paintings and graphics are strongly characterised by a direct, gesticulatory touch. Whether on the medium of canvas or sheet of paper, the essence of his style consists in the graphic tracing of the écriture. This may be manifest as abstract, spidery "doodling" – so to speak, without the descriptive, imitative intention of the artist, or it may mutate into a figurative form, usually a head with feet and over-dimensional arms and stylised, mask-like face. Objectivity in rendering the authentic physiognomy of the human body retreats in favour of processual, direct drawing.

 

We are reminded a little of the depictive articulations of Art Brut and children's drawing in its early stage – full of sensuously direct freshness and elemental powers of expression. Artists like Jean Dubuffet and protagonists of the Cobra Group already sounded out the qualities inherent in creative freedom, liberated from academic restrictions and rationality, and were able to use them in their painting. There are plenty of examples of this in Austria as well, above all the reality artists – Ringel, Pongratz – who have worked intensively in contextual art.

 

After the burgeoning of the modern movement with Dubuffet, Appel or Jorn, a renaissance of this aforementioned individual style with such a figurative tendency took place in the post-modern 1980s. Besides positions taken by the Neue Wilden or Transavanguardia, Jean-Michel Basquiat was at the forefront in making "figurative doodling" into a major criterion in modern painting. This is something that Dalpra, too, feels quite close to.

 

Like Basquiat, Dalpra's work also has written characters supplementing the gesticulatory tracing of heads with feet. Dalpra interprets the picture background as a kind of graffiti wall, as an application surface for ideas, which can be layered on top of each other in multiple strata, along with painterly areas of colour and graphic, figurative motifs.

 

Dalpra never sees his drawing and painting as an analogue illustration of reality in terms of a realistic, instantaneous "take" as we are used to in ancient frescoes, Renaissance paintings in central perspective, realistic examples of classicism and Romanticism, or photo-realism in painting – the last of which is arousing much interest today. With Dalpra, it is always the spiritual and emotional source that feeds his pictures. Here, his experiences during his periods abroad play an elemental role in his creativity. In his latest block of works it is mainly India, for the artist has built up close links with the country, its culture and its everyday life. The sensuously vibrant colours of Indian textiles naturally play an essential part and are reflected in the painterly use of colour on canvas and paper. Dalpra partly derives his graffiti texture also from advertisement posters with torn-off layers.

 

Dalpra's pictures appear to symbolise Romantic, "primitive anti-worlds", full of the archaic and primal. A kind of escapism into the exotic and "paradisial", which we encountered especially in the classical modern works of Picasso, Nolde or Gauguin? Even Dalpra's studio in Vienna is like an exotic oasis, detached from the neon-tube frigidity of the loft studio. His work as an artist and his personal attitude set Dalpra apart from the current trend of the zeitgeist manifest in the predominant, contemporary painting scene. Chilly, glass-clear photo-realism and surreal-romantic pictorial narratives such as the Leipzig School – highly rated at present – with Neo Rauch, Tim Eitel or Tilo Baumgärtl, are alien to him. Dalpra stolidly perseveres in his individual, archaic mythology and the personal gesture, retaining his own lone-wolf touch, full of sensibility and sensuousness of expression.

 

 

Florian Steininger