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For Marie Jacotey’s first solo exhibition at Hannah Barry, she is exhibiting a series of 58 drawings on plaster. They are postcard in size, positioned in portrait and aligned across the gallery walls at eye level. Jacotey is one of this year’s Bloomberg New Contemporaries, with the group exhibition at London’s ICA running alongside this one, and she has previously exhibited at the Liverpool Biennial.
The drawings in Dolly are mostly figurative and a female character recurs. The character is not exactly Jacotey – her hair varies from blond to brunette – but she is used by the artist as an intimate mannequin, which the title of the show, Dolly, is evocative of. Jacotey tells me that even if there was a narrative, it is no longer relevant because the images are out of order. The works are like a camera roll of screenshots, scrolling through history, moments and mistakes. Dolly is the communicator of a muddled collection of memories, and the viewer becomes a voyeur, flicking through the pages of a diary.
One of Jacotey’s long-term influences have been comic books, where there is an interesting relationship between image and text. She uses text within her images and titles her works with descriptive and poetic annotations, like captions or memories. Titles such as This is murder and I felt like drowning in my own vomit show an underlying violence to the scenes.
Some of the most powerful works are where Dolly is absent. Instead of looking in from the outside, we are inside looking out. In God knows how you loved those fights, they left me hitting the ground, we see the lower edge of a wooden window frame and the corner of a blue-patterned fabric. Is she lying flat, diagonally on cold tiles, or curled up lightly on top of a bedspread. Her vision is magnified and skewed, her eyes focused and glazed. It is an intimate, almost intrusive work that reveals secrets beneath the surface.
Jacotey compares the size of her works to miniature medieval Greek Orthodox icons – saints who gaze out of their frames, clutching relics, their heavy-set, almond-shaped eyes almost cartoonish yet stooped in mystery and knowing. It is with this intensity, however, that Dolly is vacant, and as she looks outwards, Jacotey looks inwards.
The works are made from white plaster, which is chalky and dense. The colour from the pencil is sucked in and effervesces out. Flat and block swimming-pool blues and sunshine yellows are reminiscent of David Hockney’s Californian scenes or Marc Desgrandchamps’s beaches in the south of France. But is Dolly on a slow, two-week holiday or is she a prisoner in paradise?
Hannah Barry Gallery, London
21 November – 18 December 2014
Interview by HARRIET THORPE
Filmed by MARTIN KENNEDY