Ronny Delrues recent paintings or the story of symbiotic borderlines or the unsolvable mystery of artistic works.
Each piece of work by Ronny Delrue is a story in a state of suspended animation to which another tale has been added: the painting. The story, the memory as an image is simplified and condensed, yet informed with the artistic impulse which represses the portrayal and relegates it to a bygone age.
To paint is to render visible. Ronny Delrue portrays the memory, the missing presence, not as a clearly recognisable image of an object. He reveals to us only a form that we associate with something we are familiar with – a head, a construction, a landscape. So the form portrays but is not a portrayal. The form merely hints at the basic structure specific to the object depicted or typical of what we think we recognise. Formal structures appealing to our powers of memory and imagination which are inextricably bound up with our visual and sensual experiences, for our minds are forever seeking to recognise, analyse and understand.
The reality of nature and life is taken as a starting point both for us and the artist to indulge in flights of fancy. Reality can be perceived thanks to our imaginative capacities and it is given shape in the actual material quality of the picture.
I can do no more here than try to explain what I see or think I see and seek to grasp as much of the presence and reveal as much of the hidden meaning as possible. But does this work not evade all interpretation? What Ronny Delrue seeks is not to show things in a forceful manner but to evoke. His images are to be found in the twilight zone where figurative and abstract expression meet. The painter makes no secret of his source of inspiration and themes. He is not, however, concerned with portraying but making tangible, transforming what is inconceivable into a perceptible entity, describing what cannot be told. The subjects are nothing more than a pretext, a premise, a stimulus to sharpen the instincts and the senses. The painter’s creativity is allowed to gain the upperhand and transcend the subject. The visual result is indicative of the painting process, the hesitant quest of the painter in action. He expresses the dilemma faced by all painters, ever since Cézanne. They are confronted with a choice between the subject’s figurative and abstract qualities, its real and fictional character and its visible and underlying structure.
The well-wrought pictorial material sits ill with the form, seeming to live a life of its very own, over and above the given theme. A complicated, yet tangible skin, sometimes with stratified transparencies, which seems just as elusive as the subject. Our sense of perception is put to the test and thrown into confusion. Fascinated, our eyes are drawn to the form, and then again to the material, to the flat surface, and to the three-dimensional effects, to what is happening in the foreground and in the background. To focus on the image as a whole is to be once more drawn to the detail or the background. We might be justified in assuming that the recurrent theme is supposed to be the painting process itself and all its attendant problems.
Each work is discourse with many intertwining strands but what is even more fascinating is when there is an opportunity to consider a number of works, with the same basic theme, alongside each other. Since 1986, it has been Ronny Delrues constant aim to spend long periods of time portraying just one theme. He always chooses a subject with strong personal connotations that are recaptured indefatigably in a series of works, in all their facets and manifestations, with changing combinations in stroke and colour. Recurring images that are similar in shape but that are not equivalent. Delicate tones of grey with subdued shades of blue or greenish tints tend to dominate in the recent series of Mexican temples. The recurring pyramid basis shape dominates the surface, generally in a monumental-like way, but sometimes fades away in more scenic images: archetypal forms that appear as prime examples of nature.
This blend of simplicity and complexity is primarily apparent in the series of indefined heads. For inspiration Ronny Delrue drew on the eroded grave stones at the Père Lachaise graveyard in Paris. The time-worn portraits of dead people, blurred, erased and doomed to fall into oblivion. All that remains of these portraits is the outlines within which each identity has faded. Ronny Delrues images of disappearing images act as a reflection on mortality, in thin, almost colourless tonalities of white. They bathe in a light that devastates everything in the course of time.
In Ronny Delrues recent work deliberate austerity is set off against intense depth. The compositions are wrought on small-sized canvases, scarcely bigger than a sheet of paper, and incite the senses to muse on the visible features of the images and how they are being perceived.
Delrue allows us to discover the expressiveness of traces and fragments. Through an archeology of the visible he manages to tell in painting what the art of painting really is. There seems to be an undefinable lyrical quality in what turns out to be a nostalgic quest: a nostalgia for the creative moment of yore and for the allure of elusive images.