Go back
Current locale language
Hélène Delprat, devourer of images
helene-delprat-devoreuse-dimages - ARTACTIF
March 2024 | Reading time: 26 Min | 0 Comment(s)

About the exhibition “Hélène Delprat – Monster Soup” which is held from January 20 to March 9, 2024 at the Galerie Hauser & Wirth in Paris.

High class ! At 66, the French visual artist native of Amiens, Hélène Delprat, has just joined the Swiss art gallery Hauser & Wirth, whose Paris branch opened its doors in October 2023 at n°26 bis rue François Ier , a stone's throw from the prestigious Avenue Montaigne and the Champs Élysées. “A small gallery that no one knows about in a poorly frequented area,” the artist Valérie Sonnier joked, in the little speech prepared for her friend and accomplice on the occasion of the ceremony organized at the École des beaux -arts for the departure of the illustrious professor towards new adventures. “A cycle of almost ten years ends for the woman who taught drawing in the establishment, first as a teacher then, since 2019, as workshop leader,” recalls journalist Anne-Cécile Sanchez in her very beautiful artist portrait dedicated in January to Hélène Delprat by the art magazine L'Oeil.

Obviously, the artist living in Paris, where she herself studied at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, also residing as a resident at the prestigious Villa Medici in Rome from 1982 to 1984, has already given rise to numerous individual exhibitions. First at the Maeght art gallery and the Linder Gallery, then for 10 years at the Christophe Gaillard art gallery, in Paris; at La Maison Rouge in Paris; at the Museum of Fine Arts in Caen; at the Kunsthalle Gießen, Germany; at the Marmottan Monet Museum, in Paris (2022); at the Museu Picasso, in Barcelona... In 2021, Delprat's work is presented as part of the collective exhibition "Untitled" organized by the Pinault Collection at the Punta della Dogana in Venice. The same year, the artist was asked to create the monumental outdoor fountain entitled Marcello Dove Sei???, at La Résidence – Le Tremblay, located in the commune of Orgères in France. In 2023, she participates in the collective exhibition “From her. Artists and their mother”, at the Bal à Paris, on view until February 25, 2024. And in 2024, Hélène Delprat will participate in the Lyon Biennale.

If, like me, you have not yet taken the time to get to know the work of Hélène Delprat, you have until March 9 to visit the “Hélène Delprat Monster Soup” exhibition in Paris at Hauser & Wirth, which just opened on January 20, 2024. Organized with Olivier Renaud-Clément, Delprat also presents many new works of art for sale, or to view, through a selection of new paintings, accompanied by sculptures , videos and installations on the two floors of the Parisian gallery. A monographic exhibition is also planned for spring 2025 at the Maeght Foundation in Saint-Paul-de-Vence.

For four decades, Delprat's polymorphous practice has questioned the human condition, life and death through a body of work created through multiple mediums. After having met with success on his return from the Villa Medici between 1985 and 1995 with a painting in a particular primitive style, the artist turned to video, theater, installation, interviews and radio creations. . While continuing to paint... but without saying or showing anything. Because as the journalist from L’Oeil magazine recalls: “In the mid-1990s, after ten years of collaboration, Hélène Delprat left the Maeght gallery, in full success. “I was bored,” she explains today. » Obviously, the one who is often nicknamed “the enfant terrible of painting” has attracted even more desire. And what does it matter if she sincerely thought she would never be able to stand the “circus of art” again: that was thirty years ago… and it’s only imbeciles who don’t change their minds!

We are therefore grateful to the wise and very convincing gallery owner Christophe Gaillard for having decided to let the whole world know that Hélène Delprat is “the greatest living French painter”.

In the 2000s, his pictorial practice, now nourished by an encyclopedic logic, compiled archives of heterogeneous sources. Delprat's artworks form a sprawling constellation of references to literature, cinema, radio, philosophy, Internet databases, archived stories, and art history. She “constantly navigates between The Burial of the Sardine by Goya and the horror films of Hammer Films Production,” Anne-Cécile Sanchez tells us. Always, one thing leads to another. “The figure of the hanged man, recurring in her paintings, led her, for example, to question its presence in the history of art, from the Middle Ages to Cézanne. The motives also mutate in his imagination. That of a checkered dress seen in a painting by André Derain provided him with the orange grid which recurs here and there in his paintings. »

The title of the exhibition, “Monster Soup,” reflects this multidimensional approach, referencing a variety of popular and cultural sources. The exhibition poster designed by the artist herself also reflects this syncretism: the image taken from an English engraving by William Heath from the 1820s, showing a woman horrified by the monstrous content of a drop of water from the Thames enlarged under a magnifying glass, coexists with characters from Delprat's paintings. Like an iconologist, Delprat distils eclectic sources of inspiration and constitutes a disturbing atlas – a world inhabited by both fortuitous and deliberate, beautiful and grotesque elements, where the notions of memory, identity, trace and heritage meet and invite us to reflect on the fabricated nature of the past and the ephemeral nature of the present.

“Intellectually, I start from everything I see,” she explains, “[…] There is no real preparatory work, except all this reading, all these curiosities, these newspapers that I leaf through and these information I listen to, all the photos I take or cut out. Preparation is just what I experience. »

Some of Delprat's works presented in the exhibition, particularly his paintings, can be linked to the concept of serio ludere, a term that dates back to the Renaissance and means "to play seriously", in which tragic imagery and allusions to death are worked with a certain sense of the comic and the absurd. And personally, that’s really what interests me in his work. “Hélène Delprat claims to not be very good at dealing with “the seriousness of the situations we experience”. But, as she herself pointed out while preparing her exhibition at the Marmottan Monet Museum in April 2022, “do we think of the 1914-18 war when looking at Les Nymphéas? "", recalls the journalist from L'Oeil magazine, before specifying that indeed, these are indeed the "great decorations" that Claude Monet offered to Clémenceau to celebrate the victory...

Abstract textured surfaces populated with partially hidden images and phantasmagorical shapes - ghouls, anthropomorphic flowers, or moths - coexist in paintings such as Peinture – catastrophe (2023), composed of pigments, acrylic binder and glitter on canvas, technique frequently used by Delprat. Composing a space where fiction and documentary intertwine, Delprat's multi-layered paintings reveal an anachronistic territory. Its elusive characters and objects escape context and resist any single, organized narrative. The artist often uses and satirizes representations and images of war in his paintings, notably in Il n'y plus rien à faire (2023) where portraits of Nazi soldiers and levitating military boots, inspired by the cartoonist's drawings and French illustrator Jean Sennep, coexist with distorted faces from propaganda cartoons.

The motif of the flag, recurring in Delprat's work, also appears as an allusion to war and a metaphor for the act of painting like a battle. We find him floating in his paintings, held by his strangely disturbing characters, or even dominating the exhibition space under his 4 meters high steel and blown glass. The carpets made by the artist and installed on the first floor, decorated with graphic patterns reminiscent of the ornamental protections affixed to the windows of Parisian stores to protect them from bombing during the First World War, in turn invoke the specter of war.

Similar imagery evoking tragedy and death is seen in Judas (2023), a painting on paper mounted on canvas, which depicts a figure hanging from a hanged man's noose, its insides gaping, in the company of a menacing winged creature , inspired by the work of Giovanni Canavesio at the Notre Dame des Fontaines Chapel.

The characters who populate his recent works, animal or human entities, float on misty and multicolored backgrounds, sometimes speckled with gold, crossed by drips or an efflorescence of convoluted or geometric motifs. These figures evolve within dreamlike compositions that evoke the way memories appear, fade and resurface, driven by their own illogical logic. As we have seen, his creations continually feed on his infinite curiosity and his appetite for collecting information from the worlds of yesterday and today. This approach is also reflected in film works such as Strictly Personal (2023) or Hammer Song (2007), where the artist recreates scenes and images from films produced by Universal or Hammer Productions. Cobbled together in his workshop, the film is an amused homage to Z films, featuring cinematic tropes such as lightning, flying saucers, storms, screams, monsters and giant spiders. As the artist says, “I like things that are rough, creaky, a little monstrous or extravagant. »

Valibri en RoulotteArticle written by Valibri in Roulotte

Illustration: Hélène Delprat, Disaster painting, 2023
© Hélène Delprat, Hauser & Wirth

Discutons !
No one has yet had the audacity to comment on this article! Will you be the first?
Participate in the discussion
Example: Gallery specializing in Pop Art