‘Of Course You Are’ the title of Diane Dal-Pra’s debut solo exhibition, is the response to a preceding question, the demand for approval and the response an affirmation to the subject delivered despite the masking of each large scale portrait.
Dal-Pra’s principal concern is that of identity, the choices we make in the presentation of our bodies to others and to the outside world. But it is not by what we see so much as by what is hidden for Dal-Pra has chosen to completely disguise these portraits in fabrics and the every day objects that we choose to represent ourselves. These bodies are consumed by an overabundance of textiles which underline the duality of the objects which surround each figure. They are capable of strongly defining their identity whilst simultaneously engulfing themselves, forcing them to disappear behind the silks, quilts, pleats and velvets, often bound by cording that only further locks them in.
Her models are architectural forms, imposing portraits painted as if carved in a solid block that will never move. Her choice of oil paint, a medium which Dal-Pra believes one can spend a lifetime learning new techniques and perfecting, is a conscious effort to move away from the flat and to add towards the volume that these forms describe.
Oil paint responds to the need that Dal-Pra had to build sculptural structures and to anchor each one as immutable objects. Her forms are undoubtedly inspired from the Surrealist ordering and construction of forms, as much as that of Mannerist movement, couplings that are impossible to achieve, deformations of the body and exaggeration of their attitudes.
‘Of Course You Are’ reveals things that we all know, objects that are recognisable in our collective memory such as the cording that winds itself around the fabrics and the models underneath, loosely gathering them and yet binding them into the costumes with which they have chosen to represent themselves.
Faces masked, engulfed by voile and cloth, a morsel of sculpture which one figure struggles to pick up, a vase of tulips balanced awkwardly on a figure bent back against herself, head covered in a fabric with the silhouettes of two profiles which almost touch. ‘Of Course You Are’ answers the question of each sitter, that despite their masking, of course they are, even behind all of that.