Gladwell & Patterson | Walter Dolphyn Top Of The World

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Walter Dolphyn

Willem Dolphyn




FE AT U R I NG W I L L E M DOL P H Y N 14 - 28 NOVEMBER 2014

It is our great pleasure to introduce Gladwell & Patterson’s most recent exhibition of the work of Walter Dolphyn, featuring select paintings by his father and distinguished artist Willem Dolphyn. As ever, the combined effect of Willem and Walter’s work delights, juxtaposing the former’s purely traditional oeuvre with the latter’s transporting world of humour. Classical technical virtuosity along with a shared aesthetic of luxuriant colour and attention to detail provide a rich link between father and son’s work, and denote their common artistic heritage passed from Willem’s father and Walter’s grandfather, Victor, the esteemed artist and former professor at the Antwerp Royal Academy of Arts. In this most recent body of work Walter continues to focus on his favoured subjects: toys, figurines, gadgets and miniatures, all vividly rendered with exquisite painterly precision. As lighthearted as his subject matter might first appear, Walter’s technique remains faithfully classical. Working from his studio in France and taking advantage of the wonderful Northern European light, his process is to first make sketches, followed by an initial underpainting of diluted oil, before working the objects out in full one by one. Achieving such exacting levels of detail is so demanding that he can only work in 15-20 minute bursts on certain compositions, providing for a limited output of the highest standard. In his newest tableaux, The Shooting Practice – “Hmmm…Oh well… what about a job in the kitchen?” Walter is confronting new challenges. Whereby his works to date have focused on the figures and their interplay at the centre of each canvas, he has recently begun a process of detailing the background. In addition to his dedication to technical execution, the works included in the present exhibition showcase what is at the heart of Walter’s practice: the art of narrative. Jokingly self-styled as the Hieronymous Bosch of his age, above all Walter aims to tell stories. Inspired by the toys or figures themselves or by an everyday observation he then directs the protagonists, sometimes solitary, sometimes in various surreal combinations, often poised mid-action, or crowded into vitrines and onto shelves. A work like On Top of the World plays with notions of scale to sharpen our perception. Always guided by humour many works tell a brief pithy joke, such as “Darling, Are You Sure He’s Mine?”, while others are less straightforward. Empty! …Again!!, for example, is a compendium of tales untold, about which we are invited to speculate. This storytelling impulse again taps into a family legacy, this time from Walter’s great grandfather, a famed writer with texts now translated into 56 different languages. Each composition includes something relating to Walter’s own life. Those viewers looking closely, or now reading the artist’s own notes which he has so kindly contributed to this catalogue, will be rewarded with a personal angle to each work. Further elaborations to the narrative in his work include a new format inspired by comic books, in which a larger canvas of a main composition is matched with a smaller ‘what happened next’ canvas. The still life works by Willem featured here are prime examples of his consummate skill and steadiness of style, and form beautiful complements to his son’s work. Their balanced compositions and harmonious interplay of light and dark never fail to impress. Whether a still life of finery and fruit, or of a toy figurine and cabinet of curiosities, each work in this exhibition lets us hold a detail of life under closer scrutiny, stopping to think and to appreciate in a different way. Next year Gladwell & Patterson have the great honour of marking Willem’s 80th birthday and 30th anniversary of his association with the gallery with a major dedicated exhibition. We look forward to this with anticipation and in the meantime invite you to enjoy viewing Willem and Walter’s work side by side once again.


“You don’t have to stand on top of Mount Everest to feel like you are on top of the world. In this case the courageous rock climber is standing on a rock only about 2cm high, although it still looks quite lonesome up there. The very large background of On Top of the World is used to create a feeling of solitude. The upper part of the background is a little more blue-ish and therefore a bit cooler. Giving us a feeling of being high up in the mountains.”


O N TO P O F TH E W O R L D oil • 12” x 24” • 30 x 60 cms WALTER DOLPHYN


“Gentlemen, You W on’t B elieve This . . .” oil • 7” x 21.5” • 18 x 55 cms

“In this painting I wanted to show you that sometimes a chain of events can lead to unbelievable outcomes. In this case, the first breakdown truck broke down and got help from the second one who apparently also broke down and the man in the third truck is saying to his colleagues, “Gentlemen, you won’t believe this…” whilst holding an empty jerry can. When I finished this painting, a friend of mine who lives in Brussels started to laugh when she saw it and explained to me that she saw the same situation a couple of weeks earlier. She lives in a very narrow street and when a delivery lorry got stuck in the street a towing truck was called for help. This towing truck broke down so they had to call another one to get the broken down truck out of the street and then the lorry. So you see that fantasy, however silly the idea might be, can be mirrored in real life.”


A V ery Close Finish oil • 5.5” x 24” • 14 x 60 cms

Din ky Toys 2 30 Talbot-L ago Racing C ar oil • 31.5” x 69” • 80 x 175 cms 12




H ole in O ne oil • 8” x 24” • 20 x 60 cms WALTER DOLPHYN


“Table for Three… I Suppose ? ” oil • 7” x 12” • 18 x 30 cms


“ I Promise You W on ’ t F eel a Thing” oil • 6” x 9” • 15 x 22 cms

“I’m not a person who is afraid of things; small spaces, heights, spiders... but I’m not keen on static electricity and dentist visits, and this painting isn’t about static electricity. I worked in a printshop before becoming a painter, and with all the rubber cylinders of printing machines and paper folding machines constantly turning, you build up a lot of static electricity. Everything I touched gave me a discharge, the car, the fridge, door handles, elevator buttons, shaking hands etc... it turned into a phobia, at a certain moment I was afraid of touching anything, a time which is fortunately behind me now. The dentist, I don’t really know, I never had a really bad experience at the dentists, but still...”




S ince Oliver and M ary had their new pet, getting a lift became a lot more difficult

O liver and M ary

oil • 7” x 21.5” • 18 x 55 cms

oil • 5” x 6” • 12.5 x 15 cms

HITCHHIKERS “This is what I call a “what happens next painting”. It’s a mix of a still-life painting, a cartoon and a comic strip. There’s something happening in one painting and then there’s the next episode of the story in the smaller second one. In this case Oliver and Mary are having trouble getting a lift, even a farmer with his old Land Rover doesn’t seem to stop for them. Of course they blame the Gorilla for this inconvenience. Then there is the follow up painting, and I leave it to the spectator to fill in what ‘really’ happened.”




R obby, the R obot oil • 46” x 29” • 116.5 x 73 cms

“The main character of the 1950’s Sci-Fi movie ‘Forbidden Planet’ became an icon for every Sci-Fi geek, like me. I love those b-movies from the 50’s and 60’s; ‘The Thing from Another World’, ‘Them’, ‘The Brain from Planet Arous’, ‘Plan 9 from Outer Space’ and many others are all fantastic films and have always been a great source of inspiration. With an oversize painting like Robby, I wanted to put the focus on the beautiful details of these toys, which in many cases are never seen by ‘normal’ eyes. My painting at such a large scale helps you to see all the detail.”



Highway P. D . oil • 25.5” x 36” • 65 x 92 cm 22



“Darling, A re You Sure He ’s M ine ? ” oil • 10” x 20” • 25 x 50 cms 24

TH E STA ND O FF! oil • 6.5” x 19.75” • 16 x 50 cms WALTER DOLPHYN


“Pes ky chewing gum ! ” oil • 4.5” x 5” • 11 x 13 cms

“For this painting I was inspired by the toy figure itself. The farmer boy is shovelling some hay. When looking at it, I found that the hay looks more like a huge ball of chewing gum. For moulding purposes, the hay is joined with the foot of the figure, which makes it look like the poor man just stepped in the fresh gum and is desperately trying to get it of his foot. I don’t know if you ever stepped in fresh gum... it’s awful. One of the things I do is to observe everything. In this case, if you look at the pavements, it’s unbelievable how much chewing gum you’ll see, it looks like the pavements are glued together with them, certainly around bus stop areas. One of my grandfather’s most important lessons that I learned from him was “Painting is giving and taking”. Which means you can make a painting better by adding or leaving things out. After all it’s the picture that counts. I first finished this painting in 2012 and after seeing it back a year later, I thought it was missing some colour so I added the yellow stripes on the figure’s shirt and changed his belt from brown into deep red (also after finding out that this figure comes in different colour schemes) to bring more colour in the painting.”


“ Sorry sir, j ust doing my job ” oil • 5.5” x 8.5” • 13.5 x 21 cms

“The incredible ability of Horseguards to stand absolutely still inspired this painting. Equally impressive is the ability of traffic wardens to ticket stationary objects. Quite some time ago, when we were having a show at Patterson’s on Albemarle Street, a client parked his car in front of the gallery to unload a painting. Now, I don’t know where the traffic warden came from, maybe she crawled from under the pavement, but she was there in seconds. I saw, through the window, the client gesticulate and try to explain to her that he was just going to drop off a painting. With a big smile and in a very friendly manner she handed over the ticket anyway.”




CO R R IDA Y GO ND O L A (T H E S PA N I S H TOU RI S T ) oil • 8” x 23” • 20 x 58 cms WALTER DOLPHYN


Taking a look back at:

THE INCREDIBLE UNKNOWN HISTORY OF MOON EXPLORATION The Moon Landing series will total 13 paintings when it is completed, Walter aims to paint one for each exhibition. The series is a witty nod to NASA’s Apollo program which was responsible for landing of the first humans on the Moon in 1969.


And this year, Number VIII:


oil • 6” x 8.25” • 15 x 21 cms WALTER DOLPHYN


“When first I finished the Batmobile, I discovered that for some reason the wheels were too large. I had to find out what went wrong. You must know that enlarging these toys begins with a technical drawing with lots of measuring and calculating and only after this are they transformed into an artistic impression. To do the measuring of the wheels, I bought a special ruler in our local supermarket. I then found out what went wrong: this ‘very cheap’ ruler started, for some reason, at 1mm and not at 0mm which meant that my measurements were off by 1mm (x 8 magnifying factor), so the wheels were 8mm too large - Oh no! Not the wheels... being the most difficult thing on these car paintings to paint. Anyhow I gathered all my courage and changed the wheels and because of that, I had to change some more things (it’s hard being a perfectionist). When it was finally finished, Martin Taylor put me in contact with Marcel Van Cleemput, who was the chief designer for Corgi Toys in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and to whom I had sent a picture of the painting. He gave me the ok that it was now correct but sadly passed away not long after this.”

Corgi Toys n ° 2 67 Batmobile oil • 19.75” x 39.5” • 50 x 100 cms 32

“These two paintings symbolise the rivalry between the toy manufacturers ‘Dinky’ and ‘Corgi Toys’. In 1966 Corgi released No.267 Batmobile, directly countered by Dinky with their No.100 Lady Penelope’s F.A.B. 1. They were then, and are still now, the icons of those toy manufacturers.”

D INKY 100 L A DY P ENELOP E’ S F. A . B. 1 oil • 19.75” x 39.5” • 50 x 100 cms WALTER DOLPHYN


EMPTY!... AGAIN!! “This was one ‘terrifying’ job. I have worked for nearly four months on it. The trick was to keep focused on the shelf I was working on, certainly in the beginning. When after about 14 days of ‘hard labour’ the first shelf was finished, it was dispiriting to see that seven more shelves were still awaiting me. Once I was over half way, it went better, I sometimes could carefully look back at what I had already achieved. Also keeping focused for such a long time on one painting was difficult. When it was finally finished and no longer standing prominently on my easel, I was for some time missing it when I came into my studio each morning. In this painting, there is no direct short funny story, as there are too many objects, although there are connections between some of the objects it mainly tells a few things about myself and my life, but I leave it up to the spectator to puzzle it out. Of course if someone wants help, I will be delighted to give it. It’s also a showcase of my huge collection of ‘stuff’ that I gathered over the last 20 odd years. Artists, crazy people.”


oil • 21.5” x 34.5” • 55 x 88 cms WALTER DOLPHYN


SIEGE! “This is about the strange relationship between men and drink. When there is a party, or in the pub, or wherever they drink, men seem to attack the ‘booze’ like it has to be conquered, my own experience. The most epic stories are told of devastating binge drinking and heroic battles with hangovers. In days of old Knights would lay siege to castles to conquer them. My men are the new Knights laying siege to a different type of castle. By the way, Chateau Mazeyres is a very good wine, but the label is even more interesting!”


oil • 18” x 12” • 45 x 30 cms WALTER DOLPHYN



K å nø n oil • 6.5” x 15” • 16.5 x 38 cms WALTER DOLPHYN


“Back Off Shei L a ! ” oil • 5” x 8” • 13 x 20 cms 40

“ O h Jeremy, how romantic!” oil • 6” x 10” • 15 x 25 cms WALTER DOLPHYN


THE SHOOTING PRACTICE “Poor Private Jones isn’t too good at shooting, even if it’s with a machine gun on a tripod. So his officer suggests to him that a job in the kitchen would be more appropriate. He will now spend the rest of the war doing the ‘heroic’ job of peeling potatoes. This painting is a good example of how I integrate the background into the story. The background itself has been shot to bits as the soldiers missed their target during the practice.”


“ H mmm …O h well… what about a job in the kitchen? ” oil • 7.5” x 17.5” • 19 x 45 cms WALTER DOLPHYN


“ARE WE NEARLY THERE YET ?” “In this painting the background is an essential and important element in the story. In painting it I have flouted one of the main rules in composition that a background must be horizontal. However, the sloped background works because it becomes part of the story. Here it highlights one of life’s battles. Swimming or rowing uphill is always much more difficult. When something doesn’t go smoothly, it always seems to take longer or distances seem further. A good example and one of life’s great mysteries is that when your football team is winning and they have to defend, time goes slowly. On the other hand, when your team is losing and has to catch up, time is flying. Although a minute is still always a minute.”


oil • 14” x 24” • 35 x 60 cms WALTER DOLPHYN



Cherries on a B lue Tablecloth oil • 20” x 16” • 50 x 40 cms 48

Strawberries on a P ewter platter with a N amur C offee Jug

Blueberry Reflections

oil • 20” x 16” • 50 x 40 cms

oil • 20” x 16” • 50 x 40 cms WILLEM DOLPHYN






oil • 6” x 4” • 15 x 10 cms

oil • 3.5” x 3.5” • 9 x 9 cms

oil • 6” x 4” • 15 x 10 cms

S tar Berries in an I mari L andscape oil • 4” x 6” • 10 x 15 cms

Red Delights oil • 4” x 6” • 10 x 15 cms



Middle E astern D elights oil • 28” x 40” • 71 x 102 cms 52

A rabic Treasures oil • 28” x 40” • 71 x 102 cms WILLEM DOLPHYN


A Tiny V intage oil • 3.5” x 3.5” • 9 x 9 cms


Pum Pkin with Grapes

Cherry R ipe

oil • 10” x 8” • 25 x 20 cms

oil • 3.5” x 3.5” • 9 x 9 cms

O n the H earth oil • 16” x 20” • 40 x 50 cms WILLEM DOLPHYN


A N E MPE ROR’S BA NQU ET oil • 39.5” x 31.5” • 100 x 80 cms 56



G erman B lac k Forest Glass and Cherries oil • 12” x 16” • 30 x 40 cms

E nglish S trawberry R eflections oil • 12” x 16” • 30 x 40 cms


F rench G rapes and a Brown Jug oil • 12” x 16” • 30 x 40 cms

S panish L emons oil • 12” x 16” • 30 x 40 cms



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