Energy-charged symbiosis



"Contemplation of ideal Figures" is the title of a drawing by Mario Dalpra from 2004. It actually shows only one figure, and this is anything but "ideal", at least in terms of classical and even contemporary ideas of film, photo and comic hero(in)es. It is much more a typical, mop-hair, Mario-Dalpra figure, ignoring all academic rules of proportion or the slightest hint of body-styling; nor does any immediate aura of contemplation impose itself on the observer; on the contrary, the striding figure – or is it struggling to stride? – seems to be severely restricted in movement – not a favourable state for retreating into contemplation, one would think. And yet, in relation to the surroundings advancing threateningly upon it, doesn't the delicate figure seem to be coolly concentrating on itself – perhaps it can edge forward a little after all, maybe through the streams of obstacles, or behind and past them?


Work titles and text fragments in drawings and pictures by Mario Dalpra can hardly ever be taken word for word; they rather provide hints for potential interpretations. And since Mario Dalpra does not (re)tell complete stories, but visually expresses human inner worlds in their constant confrontation with outer worlds or even other inner worlds, at any rate interpretations always remain in a state of flux – depending as well on how their observers view the worlds dwelling within them.


In his most recent works on paper, we again find elements entering into the picture from the edges. They affect the increasingly centralised scenario, whether – when seen metaphorically – supportive-protective as in the drawing "getting naked for a few days", or confining as in"he made me carry", or simply forming a compositional frame as in "he passed out". Compared with the 2004 drawing described above, we now see monochrome spots of colour, which seem to stream into the picture from above, below or from the sides, perhaps pausing in viscous flow. At any rate, they can no longer be "automatically" avoided, or marched through. From the aesthetic point of view, the introduction of this depictive medium certainly means concentration on the symbolism of the figure(s) and the characters, hence on “what is happening" – at the same time with a reduction of those informal painterly and graphic ingredients which used to be inscribed right up to the edges of his earlier works. "Dalpra is now working primarily on taming the ‘tangle of lines’ induced by dreams and the subconscious, and on revealing a new pictorial idiom out of this material in a sloughing-off process of reduction," wrote Christa Dietrich two years ago. Will this make Dalpra's imagery calmer, more "contemplative"? This assumption is hardly corroborated by the action of the figures with or against their environment – the actors seem invigorated in comparison with the earlier, often fragile mop-hair figures – a balance of forces also in the part that is intermediate to drawing and painting.

"Among the exceptional creative features Mario Dalpra shares with other Austrians is the powerful, natural fusion of painting and drawing. Rendered in greatly diverse formats (...), it leads to an energy-charged symbiosis, forming a statement that relates in the most concise symbolism to the human being and his or her intellectual and spiritual position," writes Peter Baum, thus pointing out several Dalpra characteristics all at once. Drawing and painting cannot be separated from one another, whether in his work in oils or on paper; colour and line are deployed as equals to generate every nuance of intensity. "The most concise symbolism”, his human, animal, vegetable or scriptoral emblems function as recognition factors and help us to enter the fantastical, at times bizarre, and yet unadorned and honestly won world of Mario Dalpra, the very aspect ensuring that this does not remain solely his personal, subjective-immanent world, but becomes accessible to us as part of reality. And the producer of this world is evidently "energy-charged" to the highest degree when he gets down to work, whether drawing and painting, whether in an improvised keyboard dialogue with pianist friends, whether sculpting or travelling: from Vienna to Sydney, he explores the continents, absorbs impressions which he processes as an artist, penetrates the network of international art dealing and collecting, never complains about art politics in his native country, or the regional obtuseness to art, but takes the stage undaunted, often seeming to act in several scenes at once. All his machinations and intensity in addressing various cultures, art forms and people never tempt him towards eclecticism in incorporating impressions into his work. He incorporates them through his own imagery, which never changes in principle – this is also true of his scepticism towards the mainstream art business, where the work of agents and promoters flounders in the fabrication of shooting stars, the creation of chart lists, and conformist surfing on the waves of fashion.


"Often the line surges with vehemence to the other end of the picture plane," writes Manisha Jothady in a text on Mario Dalpra. Not the least of this catalogue's aims is to show that the line surges on with vehemence, sure of its objective, energetically breaking through all the barriers of colour that the artist is recently placing in its way.



Lucas Gehrmann