FANTAST IN FOCUS: DELPHINE LEBOURGEOIS
Delphine Lebourgeois is a collagist and illustrator. A graduate of the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts de Lyon and Central St Martins, Delphine has had her entrancing artwork featured in publications, such as The Guardian and The New Yorker. All in all, there is a current of effervescence and playfulness that runs throughout Delphine’s collages. Her scenes, full of light and movement, are living poetry. Naturally, we were elated to speak with Delphine about her work.
The Custodian: One of the most striking things about your artwork is how you cleverly and seamlessly mix tropes from the Old Masters with images from contemporary culture. For example, in Smoke V you’ve got a nonchalant woman relaxing in a pool of water with a cigarette while a miniature Artemis shoots an arrow into the stars and kills a passing Superman. How do you start to build these visual narratives? What’s your process?
Delphine Lebourgeois: I like to draw from diverse stylistic and cultural sources to create a language where symbols play with each other. Collage is my main tool to build the stories. I work with photoshop mixing up imagery and then re-draw some elements that get scanned in. The series Smoke is really about slowing things down and taking a break, hence the shooting down of the little Superman. In Smoke I, the woman in the water wears tattoos of shooters. It’s about preserving peace and sanity after (or in spite of) the battle.
C: Who and what are your artistic inspirations?
D: Pop art is a big one as well as street artists in general. But, on a different note, I recently saw the exhibition My back to Nature by George Shaw who was the artist in residence at the National Gallery London for the past two years. Shaw paints atmospheric woodlands with traces that humans have left behind. These act as indications that something somehow dramatic has happened. His work offers numerous readings and ways of interpretation. It’s together sacred and sordid. An abandoned duvet becomes the glowing cloak of a Virgin Mary, a splatter of red paint against a tree carries the charge of a possible crime. It’s ambiguous and beautiful.
C: What about your favourite books? Which ones were truly able to make you feel as if you were living in another time, place, or universe?
D: This question takes me back to my teenage years when I used to read a lot of magic realism novels (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende…). These books really made me travel.
More recently, I would choose The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories by Don DeLillo. His writing is visual. It evokes a myriad of images that seem to jump from one dimension to the next in a vertiginous way. There is something deep about the essence of humanity in his stories. Also in an acute visionary sense.
C: Did you always want to be an artist?
D: I am not sure really. “Being an artist” sounds rather pompous and paradoxically doesn’t define much. Making images is my way to communicate with other people. It’s an exchange that’s vital for me.
C: What kind of themes were you working with in your new Heroes and Villains series? Our favourite is Superhero I. We immediately noticed its resemblance to the “Fool” tarot card, which symbolically represents unrestrained creativity and willpower.
D: The Heroes and Villains collection is essentially about children. Children and their relationship with society. Family being the first societal structure everyone experiences, Superhero I and II depict a child with a masked female character who would appear to be his mother.
I wanted to create stories about protecting and failing sometimes as a parent and as a society by extension. In other images from the series like Belonging and Bye Bye Mummy, a group of fierce looking masked adults welcome the small child as a peer. This is about the vulnerability of youngsters who seek reassurance and a sense of belonging by joining the wrong crowd. The appeal of baddies…
I am interested in philosophers such as Hannah Arendt and Rousseau who believe that man was born inherently good and it is society who corrupts him. This series is still a work in progress with more images to be released in 2017.
C: Arguably the most jarring recurring image in your art so far is the sharpshooting woman. This markswoman appears with two other imperious shooters in your new series. It’s as if you created a perfect representation of sheer focus and power. How did this sharpshooter first come about? Did you always know that she would have such an emotional resonance?
D: I guess the “sheer focus and power” is probably down to working the image over and over. My work is everything but spontaneous! The shooting girls appeared with the series The Girl has a Gun in 2014. Yes, it is about giving the power back to women, but it is not in opposition of men. Men in fact, are pretty much absent from this series. However, an isolated woman is often found confronting a malicious group. This is about individuality and finding the strength to go against the flow.
The Inner child is, to date, one of my most popular pieces despite arousing a certain amount of dislike. The guns can be disconcerting.
C: Can you tell us more about your upcoming exhibitions?
D: I am currently taking part in two group exhibitions: “People on the move” organised by Art Bastion in Miami for Amnesty international, and “Drawing Lines” a show on drawing curated by Jealous Gallery (London) with artists such as Charming Baker, Ann-Marie James and David Shirley. There is also a string of art fairs coming up starting with The Other Art Fair and AAF Stockholm early October followed by Flux London and AAF Singapore.
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