"I just want to finish something, if you don't mind", Desiree Dolron says as she paces through her living room. "Coffee?" The assessment walls in her Amsterdam home are full of prints from her new serie Xteriors. Only the photo paper’s white edges give away that these are not paintings. The photography technique that she uses is both extremely refined and very laborious, as if she is on an endless quest for perfection. "Puzzles with millions of pixels, that’s what they are."
Stacks of contact sheets are on the table and the kitchen bar. Today is one of those days that Desiree Dolron has time to order her files. Coffee is served, but she also puts her latest acquisitions on the table. These include three small vintage photos from the Japanese photographer, Masao Yamamoto, straight from Paris Photo 2005. She was in Paris at the Institut Néerlandais to make arrangements for her November 2006 exhibition, featuring new work from Xteriors and her series Exaltation, Images of Religion and Death. Afterwards, she dropped in at the Louvre and happened upon these "gems". Desiree is a fanatic collector of photographs as well as sketches. These two forms are also inseparable in her work, where light and lines come together. "This one simply isn't finished yet, it still isn't right", pointing at the new Xteriors print behind her. "There is not enough suspense for the viewer, and it still lacks a certain serenity." Soon the assessment walls will disappear from her home. Surrounding yourself with your own work makes you restless, and striving for perfection 24/7 is simply too much.
Xteriors, is based on the story ‘Buitenkanten’ ("exteriors" in Dutch), which Dolron wrote as a young girl. What that story was about, she doesn’t say. It's much more fun to listen to the stories other people come up with when viewing her work. After all, it’s primarily about the image. Apart from her own story, the series is based on her love for Portrait of a Young Woman by Petrus Christus (1410-1473) and the stylistic work of Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864-1916), who painted women from behind in various interiors. There are also some influences of Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lecture (see Xteriors VIII). This exemplifies her interest in the technique of classical portrait painting. However, it's the combination of architecture, portraits, light and traditional workmanship that really makes this series what it is. The atmosphere and protagonists are reminiscent of the children in the motion picture The Others. Living in a castle and anxiously shielded from the outside world by their mother; pale little faces that never come outside. What is remarkable in Xteriors is the personality of these young people. They seem so intangible, they can't be contextualised. They appear to be timeless. All of the models have read her story, to get into their role and get acquainted with the location, a country house called Oud Amelisweerd, situated near Utrecht and dating from the 18th century. In preparation, Dolron wandered through the house for days. "Just to study the light", she says. After photographing the sketchy outlines and tenuously setting the scene, she was ready to fill in the blanks.
Fill in the blanks? This would make you think that the images were finished by pressing a button, but nothing is further from the truth. An image such as Xteriors VIII is composed of twenty negatives, requiring extremely long exposure times. She demonstrates the working method that she used for this work on the computer, her digital painter's palette. Notice the imaginary triangle that runs from the woman’s face to the left hand and the little boy's hand. There is stillness in this image. The light, in the fashion of Vermeer, upon the mouth of the sleeping boy is frightfully meticulous; drudgery with wonderful results. "The work is only finished when there are no more distractions." Doesn't she find the negative association some people have with manipulation of images distracting? No, she says, since she also makes work with hardly or no manipulation. Xteriors simply couldn't be done without digital tools. Da Vinci would have been terribly happy with a computer, she believes. However, she will keep her computer at bay for a while to come. Working two years on a single image is quite enough, she feels. The isolated working environment is left behind, the world awaits her. Starting with South Africa, which she is visiting with afriend, a filmmaker and illustrator, to be amazed about things again and do absolutely nothing.