After participating at Art Cologne's New Positions in 2019 Joelle Dubois presents new works that illuminate the downsides of digital culture with irony and pragmatism in her first solo exhibition at Thomas Rehbein Galerie
. The dazzling scenes of a society that reflects itself in the latent narcissistic self-portrayals of others revolve around sexuality, loneliness and self-reflection. Dubois' paintings stylistically refer to both pop and media culture, as well as Japanese Shunga - erotic woodcuts that emerged between the 17th and 19th centuries.
With its glass touchscreen the technical artefact called Smartphone, is the perfect permeable digital membrane between public and private space. The constant connectivity of social media is increasingly blurring that line. The constantly multiplying apps on the home screen generally promise social contacts, interpersonal communication and longed-for closeness. By hastily swiping to the left or right on dating apps, every second you judge others attractiveness and compatibility when it comes to sexuality and life planning. On the other hand, on audiovisual platforms a staged unrealistic and simplified self is being shared with a faceless mass of followers that critically evaluates every pose and mien. All of it is anticipated by the users consensus an agreement to the current purport of a flaunted surface that is more important than attackable depth.
In her works, Joelle Dubois primarily negotiates the absurdities of the following a preceding supposed self-optimisation. Her mostly female protagonists are of multi-ethnic origin and often contradict the standardised ideals of beauty. They are, if any, scantily dressed and think themselves safe in the remoteness of a colourful but ambiguous world, so to say post-digital beyond public and private space, always technologically connected and therefore exposed on the World Wide Web.
Furthermore, the artists new works are strongly influenced by personal memories and experiences. They explore the fields of femininity, fertility, loss and sexuality, which are symbolically inscribed into the images that await to be deciphered. In the pictorial narrative the voyeuristic view to intimate moments simulates truthfulness, while the characters nudity makes them deeply vulnerable. Yet the ubiquitous occupation with the smartphone or similar tools makes the characters aura pulsate between ignorant obsession and the saddest apathy.
Moreover, Dubois is testing another medium for the exhibition. The delicate acrylic paintings on wood are countered by the fast line of ink drawings for the first time. The format of the paper dictates the content, as it were: naked, female bodies, but curved and limited in height and width to the sheet size. Trapped in this space defined by the artist and thus only confronted with themselves, the women use the still omnipresent smartphone to ask questions about their own sexuality and weigh them up against the unrealistic expectations placed on them by society. Here, her own obsession with technology is usefully converted, a positive view that the artist shares as well: according to her own statement Dubois also uses her smartphone almost obsessively. On the one hand as an archive, with which she explores her own biography, looking backwards. In addition, the device opens up communication options, even outside of your own comfort zone. More risk than danger, here and everywhere, superficial and deep at the same time. This makes Joelle Dubois an exact observer of today's society. And of herself. --Maurice Funken, December 2019