In the Studio
with Delphine Cuelenaere
"My head is full of images, and I need to get them out, somehow. So I carve them into wood”.
Medium: Woodcut printing Based: Ghent
Artist in Residence: February '23
When entering the 2nd floor of Ti-Pi, where Delphine has had her studio since the end of January, I'm always met by silence. Except the rythmic sounds of her carving into wood, or rubbing on top of the plate while printing. She is completely absorbed in the making of her work. So absorbed that, even though there is no music in the room, and the door is open, she will only notice me if I come directly towards her, or talk with a loud voice.
For Delphine, wood carving is a way to slow down time and be completely present in the moment, while creating compositions rich in colour. It's not so much about the possibilities of creating multpible editions; she sees it more like a form of painting. Each woodcut print is unique, and consists of several layers of oil paint, printed over long periods of time. Even though they take their starting points in sketches and photos, the images change and develop over time in the process of making, in accordance with Delphine's intution and the qualities of the materials.
"The wood has it's own life, I can't fully control that on forehand, and I like that. For example sometimes the veins of the wood come through and change the image, or the structure of the wood forces me to go in a certain direction", says Delphine and ads: " The slowness allows the image to move along."
In 2021, Delphine decided to quit her job at Artevelde university college and devote all her attention to the slow process of woodcarving and woodcut printing.
"I really liked the job at the university college, but had little time for my own work due to the extensive schedule. In the time I worked there, I had become a mom twice and just before that, I lost my own dad. It was a rollercoaster of emotions and suddently I realized how finite life is. After consideration, I decided to follow my dream and jump into the deep."
Delphine has not regretted that decision! After returning to art making, she has already had one solo exhibition, participated in a couple of group exhibitions, and after her show at Ti-Pi, she will be exhibited at the Arsenale of Venice for the Arte Laguna Prize, for which she was one of the few Belgian artists selected.
When I ask Delphine about the motives in her work, she says: "it's about honoring life, catching the fleeting moments that matter...and about daring to use colour."
During her studies at Sint-Lucas School of Arts in Ghent, Delphine was told she had no sense of colour. Consequently, she decided to always work in black, white, and gray.
"I recall my father telling me: "Come on Delphine, be yourself...use colors!""
But back then Delphine trusted her teachers more than she trusted colour. This has changed now: all her work from the past two years is very colourful. In that sense, her father's encouraging words are echoed in each colour she uses. And as such, all these works are an ode to him and to the optimism he always radiated.
"Perhaps I want to reconstruct how he saw the world, and pay tribute to the playful, optimistic view he had on life. I miss him every single day, but at the same time, the loss increases my desire to create something beautiful and meaningful right now, because I know that life is precious and has to be lived now."
However, Delphine's work is also influenced by a deep curiosity about everything around her in her present life. She loves to observe people around her, wonder about their lives and to pay attention to the little things that happen when walking in the street or gazing briefly into a window when passing a house in the street.
"I search for a shared reality in my images. I always wonder to what extend what I see, is the same as the experience of the other person. Or if each of our viewing experiences is completely different..I have a strong curiosity about other people and their perception of the world. "
This love and curiosity for everyday life come through in the subjects of her work. Each woodcut consist of a compilation of figurative images, based on a mix of memory and imagination. The compositions become somewhat abstract thanks to the tecnique of layered oil paint printing, but there are always recognisable objects, trees, animals and human figures.
"I like abstract art, but I can't work with pure abstraction myself. My head is full of images, and I need to get them out, somehow. So I carve them into wood”.
You can follow Delphine on her Instagram profile HERE.