Giulia Grillo, aka Petite Doll, exhibited her debut US solo show in New York towards the end of last year featuring surrealist self-portrait images that feature her larger than life fictional character that challenge traditional beauty standards.
Giulia Grillo is an Italian photographic artist whose images are mesmerising. Made up of surrealist compositions and featuring herself under the guise of Petite Doll, she explores not only her identity and the depths of her imagination but also takes a look at what it means to be a woman today.
"Inspired by the pop surrealist cartoonish big-eyed dolls, I transform myself every time into different fictional characters," says Grillo.
The exhibition she held at The Untitled Space in November in New York saw her present a series of artworks highlighting her surreal performance-based photography, featuring a few pieces from her ongoing series The Crab Girl and mixed-media project, In The Name of Perpetual Connection.
Curated by Indira Cesarine, the show comprised several photographs and videos in which Grillo plays with traditional beauty standards to create surreal images exploring her taste for the beautiful and the bizarre.
"I try to simulate the appearance of a doll in order to create a dreamlike dimension that raises questions about what is real and what is not," she says. "I combine surrealism with photography, transforming myself into different grotesque characters. Each work manifests intricate concepts, from the unsettling to the cute, and pushes the boundaries of what is possible."
Having always experimented with photography as a teenager and studied a Master of Arts in Photography at the UAL, Grillo's fascination with surrealism was always apparent – and it quickly became a mechanism through which to explore her expression and birth something tangible that previously had only existed in her imagination.
Featuring as part of her artwork wasn't something Grillo always did; initially, she began photographing friends but quickly realised how much easier it was to take self-portraits as a way of progressing her desire to experiment.
"I enjoyed the feeling of liberation and alienation from the rest of the world, and it eventually became an essential part of the process of photographing myself in this way," she says. "Then 'Petite Doll' as a fully-fledged character started to take shape.
"My work is satirical; I often deal with themes such as our relationship with technology, fear and anxiety. But my main aim is to explore my unconscious, and sometimes I just don't know where it is going to lead me. Most of the time, my mind does these weird associations, and I just want to bring them to life."
Though not opposed to collaborating with other artists, she likes working as a self-sufficient artist, creating all of the props that feature in the images and using different mediums and techniques - from sculpture and set design to photo editing and digital manipulation.
Petite Doll images are characterised by the unusual intricacies that feature – the juxtaposition of objects, exaggerated make-up, or unusual poses and reflections – which combined allow for a distorted commentary on contemporary society and its underlying fears and desires.
"The visual paradox is a powerful way of communication," says Grillo. "I like to create unexpected associations that evoke contrasting feelings. It allows viewers to face their fears and desires. Surreal photographs allow me to escape reality, and I like how they provoke different responses through the associations they conjure up."
Her process is playful - sometimes even inspired by her dreams. It requires in-depth research and organisation before understanding what the final image will look like. She relishes in the challenge of discovery and enjoys not knowing what will emerge until it's ultimately all pulled together.
Grillo is constantly looking forward for ways to evolve her work and has recently entered the video art and NFT space, adding new dimensions to the worlds she creates. Who knows what the future holds aesthetically for Petite Doll, but it's bound to have Grillo pushing against the worlds of creative possibility.
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