Chris Dolman

Above: 2019 One Year Studio Artist Chris Dolman in his Artspace Studio. Photo Jessica Maurer

Chris Dolman uses the formalist tropes of modernism with incongruent and self-deprecating humour. Moving across painting, printmaking, ceramics and video, and drawing on influences of art history, cartoons and comic strips, Dolman employs nontraditional self-portraiture, still life and interior motifs to present absurd psychological narratives. Inside his tragicomic world lurk ideas of personal failure, superstitions, anxiety and loss, but also of perseverance, understanding and hope.

Dolman holds an MFA (research) from Sydney College of Arts, Sydney University, 2016, and a BFA (first class) from the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne, 2010, where he was the recipient of the Wallara Travelling Scholarship (2009). He was awarded the 2017 AGNSW Dyason Bequest. He has received support from the Australia Council for the Arts and Arts NSW. Dolman has undertaken international residencies at the Cité Internationale des Arts, Villa Belleville Paris, and Frans Masereel Centrum, Belgium. National residencies include: Hill End, Bundanon Trust, BigCi NSW, Ceramic Design Studio, and St George Institute of TAFE. He has exhibited internationally: Auckland Art Fair 2016, and SPVI Turner gallery Tokyo, and nationally with solo and group shows at: Cement Fondu, Spring 1880, Irene Rose, Galerie pompom, Alaska projects, Firstdraft, West Space, Seventh, FELTspace, Fontanelle, Wellington St projects, MOP projects, Casula Powerhouse, Gippsland Regional, Hazelhurst Regional, Hawkesburry Regional, Anna Pappas, and [MARS] gallery.

Dolman created and ran the project gallery TWENTY THIRTYSEVEN, 2015.

He is represented by Galerie pompom, Sydney.

In Conversation

Chris Dolman in conversation with Artspace Executive Director Alexie Glass-Kantor

Alexie Glass-Kantor (AGK): Can you briefly describe for us your background and practice as an artist?

Chris Dolman (CD): I was born in Vancouver, Canada, but grew up here in Sydney from age two. I started painting and drawing early on, mostly inspired by cartoons and my parents’ vinyl record collection. I guess it just stuck, because I’m still painting and making things with a cartoon look.

AGK: Did you go to art school? How did your practice begin?

CD: Yes I did, I went to St George TAFE for a couple of years after high school. At that stage I was painting large-scale semi-abstracted landscapes, inspired by painters like Brett Whiteley, Richard Diebenkorn, and the like. Ten years later, I decided I wanted to study at university. I moved to Melbourne to attend the Victorian College of the Arts. That’s where I learnt there was this whole new world out there, of contemporary art, I’d just been flagrantly ignoring. I completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts with Honours, and immediately began exhibiting in group and solo shows at artist run spaces in Melbourne.

AGK: And when you sort of speak about the kind of space that your practice interrogates, how do you describe the conceptual space of the work?

CD: My work is currently concerned with a kind of non-traditional self-deprecating self-portraiture. It’s driven from personal experience, both actual and made up. I use humour as a device to talk about ideas of failure, anxiety and loss.

AGK: I think with your work that kind of layering is somewhere between a sort of exegesis of our social, cultural and economic stratification of the place and times in which we live, but then that relationship to a deeper ontology and vulnerability and precarity of these things. It’s really interesting where it flips between a more surreal and seemingly direct communication.

CD: Yeah, my recent works hover between the absurd and the mundane -between sincerity and irony, the funny and the serious. It’s about the contradictions we all face in life. How do we make sense of it all? And is that the artist’s role? To make sense? I’m not so sure.

AGK: What projects have you got coming up in the next year or two?

CD: A solo presentation [at Galerie pompom] and there are a couple of group shows in Melbourne and Sydney. There will be a lot of time actually this year to just explore and experiment in the studio which I’m really looking forward to, because I’ve felt like the last couple of years have just been really driven by harsh deadlines. I’m really going to enjoy a bit of space and time to breathe and just sit with works and decide where they’re going at my own pace or at their own pace - let them tell me.