Ronny Delrue

Explorations (In Search of Cerebriraptor)

Rolf Quaghebeur


Lo-Reninge, November-December 2006

On writing and painting (defending and in defence of relativity) [1]

A large canvas, measuring approximately one and a half metre by one and a half metre. Inthe foreground, just to left of the centre, we notice a brownish gray human profile, its headshrouded in, merging with (or originating from) the direct surroundings. At first sight this seemsa sombre, dark painting: a lonely figure amidst a vague, indefinite landscape. The pictorial playof painting, painting over and painting over once more, and then filling in the right partstransparently, semi-transparently or hermetically, has been applied more than masterly here. Forthose who know Delrue's oeuvre, it eyes familiar. It is no coincidence that 1999, V, I is one of theartist's most famous paintings.[2]

What seems dark and oppressive at first sight, turns out on looking closer to be ratherequivocal. The figure lightens up against the almost monochrome background and is actually notthat gloomy or inscrutable. Neither the figure, nor the painting itself can a priori be presumed tobe depressive, neurotic or despondent, for different hues abound. In different areas purple, green,white, blue and even a touch of yellow seem to be engaged in an underground battle. No matterhow dark and anonymous the figure, it radiates a presence. It is mysterious, maybe evenominous, but it is steadfast—not wavering or unsteady. His or her state of mind seem asanonymous and undefined as the face. As such, there is room for ambiguity—an aspect that inthe world of the visual arts is all too often underrated and certainly not fully appreciated.

It is not particularly easy to add something meaningful to the often very thoroughexegetic texts about the various aspects of Ronny Delrue's work. I am quite aware that what I willwrite may contrast with other views. But I do not want to refute these other views as incorrect oruntrue. Rather, I am convinced that an artist's oeuvre, and even more so that what is written aboutit, should be subjected to contrasting views, in order to situate the work and its public perceptionin as broad a context as possible.

If contradictions arise or statements are made that deviate from the prevailing consensus,these should be considered a positive element. In that sense and in some cases the intention andinterpretation of the artist may be subservient to the ephemeral momentum of the intuitive,nocturnal art historical reflections. From a scientific point of view, I am convinced for thatmatter, that the proper time will come when someone else will quite eloquently manage to correctthis text (i.e. should something written here once become part of the canon of Delrue's oeuvre).

With this introduction I would like, as an art historian and exhibition maker, to speak outin defence of a sense of relativity with regard to one's own opinion on the one hand—which isright now, in 2006, not a very popular concept in the art world. On the other hand, despite thissense of relativity—or maybe thanks to it—I would also plead to advance one's opinionwholeheartedly and with the necessary sense for beauty and poetry.

Though these could seem loose introductory observations that may serve to excuse theauthor in case he fails, they probably do touch upon the essence of Delrue's oeuvre.Fragmentation, discrepancies, contradictions and diversity are more common in Delrue's workthan in the writings on his work.. It is the ambition of this text and maybe of this book toundermine the traditional view of and the consensus about Delrue's work, to add new insights andpossibly to provide corrections. It would be nice if this text and other texts that will still bewritten about this impressive oeuvre, function like the layers of paint on one of Delrue's works:every single one of them has been painted with love and conviction, only to be erasedsubsequently, out of rage and frustration. As the painter rubs them out and paints over them, whatis left is a mere suggestion of them, yet also an essential presence.

A short, rather suggestive intermezzo on painting

The author Michel Archimbaud has published a book of interviews with Francis Bacon Ihappened to browse while I paid Delrue a visit in his studio. As I leafed through the booklet, Inoticed something Bacon had said about Andy Warhol:

No, that is not the case. He may have been the most intelligent of the pop artists, but alas...intelligence has never come in very useful to create art or paintings. [3]

A view pages earlier Archimbaud asks the master what the essence of painting could be:

  • What makes a painting?
  • We don't know.
  • But if it's not simply a matter of intelligence, where does a painting originate: in the heart, thestomach, the bowels?
  • We simply don't know. [4]

Humbly, laconically, but also very moving, the great artist Francis Bacon admits that hehas no insight in the essence of his work. But on the other hand, his view mythologises theartistic calling and boldly intimates that good paintings in general and his art in particular bearwitness to supernatural, divine qualities. These views seem to be mutually exclusive, yet veryclearly portray the mind of the modern, contemporary artist. [5]

Dwelling on sculpture

The Walker (2002) is one of the first three-dimensional images Delrue created. Thesculpture seems to have walked right out of the painting we mentioned above. A frail, but alsosturdy, able body carries with great difficulty a heavy, amorphous plaster head. The body is anundefined form that is dressed in a coat—or rather a monk's habit—of asphalt paper. The thin,white legs are clothed in dark socks; on the feet we notice rests of white paint and plaster.

Once again it would be too simple to define the iconography of this sculpture as sombre,gloomy and oppressive—like the paintings this sculpture is complex and multifaceted. Quitestriking is the contrast with the series Mind Sculptures Delrue created during a stay in theEuropean Ceramic Work Centre in 's Hertogenbosch (the Netherlands). The latter sculptures aremore monochrome, if only because of their idiosyncratic nature and material. Iconographicallythey are probably less ambiguous and complex than The Walker, because of their title andcontext. However, because I am convinced that for the artist these sculptures are more than amere finger exercise or an excursion to another medium, I would like to outline below a view thatconsiders the genesis of these sculptures no coincidence. For me, the series as a whole is anessential intermediary link in Delrue's oeuvre.

But first I would like to expand on the place of sculpture in Delrue's oeuvre. I will refer toThe Walker to illustrate my point. It strikes us that in this sculpture Delrue treats the sculpturalform just like he does in his paintings. In a text I published earlier this year about the work of theBelgian artist Franky D.C, I refer to the fact that once two sculptors pointed out to me that thepainter and the sculptor work from a fundamentally different attitude.[6] The difference is maybeeven more obvious in The Walker, because of the way Delrue handles the sculptural materialityof the work. The sculpture seems to be constructed layer upon layer. The first layer of whiteplaster provides the support for the subsequent layers. The cloak/monk's habit and the socks withshoes are like a second layer. The upper layer is the paint, which seems to have been applied withan equal degree of rage and frustration like the brush strokes which in the paintings dissolve thecolours underneath in a grey, brown or green mass (which, for that matter, is always moreethereal and subtle than one would believe from this description alone).

Recently I came across The Walker at a group exhibition in Menen.[7] The work stoodthere, lonely and alone, on the rood loft of a fascinating neo-classical church, and if I am notmistaken the head facing the wall. By turning the image that originated as a painting into a three-dimensional shape, Delrue has managed to use the context and the place as a plinth for the work.

Menen is a typical small town in the province of West-Flanders, not particularlybeautiful, where the rules of urban planning and good taste are no match for an rather imperativecommercial spirit. The neoclassical church is like a quiet haven amidst the hustle and bustle ofthe urban space. Delrue's sculpture is in the back. The focus on The Walker is so strong that for a brief moment the church seems to have turned around. Altar and choir seem of secondaryimportance. Because of the image in the semidarkness of the church, the focus is on the rood loft,on the neoclassical ceiling and the part of the church nearest to the street. This somehow lendsthe church more of the character of a market place, or to remain in the religious atmosphere, of aheathen temple, than of a quiet place for Christians who want to slow down and reflect. In otherwords, the sculpture is partly defined by the context.

But is probably more important to notice that the reverse, too, happens: the context, thesurroundings, acquires a radically different (mental) meaning as The Walker is installed—without for that matter losing its original meaning entirely. That shift seems unlikely to occur if the workhad originated from a purely sculptural tradition; it can probably occur only if the painter decidesto create sculptures. A similar, essentially inexplicable effect we notice with other painters, suchas Franky D.C or Thierry De Cordier. A sculptor departs from volume and matter, which hesubsequently lends meaning. Ronny Delrue, who fundamentally remains attached to the attitudeof the painter, departs from the context, from the meaning he subsequently lends shape. That factis revealed not only by the paint and the sculpture being painted, but also by the equivocalsombre iconography. The sculpture reminds us as much of a (fallen) angel as it reminds us of amere human being who is struggling with his emotions and his psyche and who is like anunexploded shell. In the context of the exhibition about transience we mentioned here, thesculpture even reminded us of an image of Death: a shy figure with thin white legs, dressed in ablack coat, blindly taking life. Weakness joins power. Tension guaranteed. A silent synthesis of adanse macabre that confronts us both with eternity and with finiteness. As we wrote earlier, inthis respect it seems necessary to broaden the iconographic approach of Delrue's work, but moreabout that later.

The suggestion that Delrue's sculptures in general and in The Walker in particular, areessentially like paintings which were given a three-dimensional shape because of certain artisticrequirements, is inspired in first instance by the almost literal application of painterly principlesduring the process of their creation. The sculptures therefore radiate a particular frailty, but alsosucceed in (re)defining the function and meaning of the surroundings through the genesis of thecontext and not through the spatial element. In case of The Walker that is even literally the case.

While working on this text, I attended a lecture by the eminent Algerian thinkerMohammed Arkoun.[8] Though Arkoun is specialized in the rich history of Islamic philosophy, heintroduced the simple but very practical, brilliant concept of the destructive genesis of meaning.In order to understand precisely what he means with this concept, further reading and study isrequired. Yet for the time being a merely intuitive approach to the concept will also allow a newperspective of Delrue's work. The concept certainly does not involve atabula rasa with regard tothe creation of meaning and the interpretation of images. The idea that underlies the concept ofthedestructive genesis of meaning is more like a practical principle that underlies The Walker. [9]As we argued above, one of the reasons for The Walker to step outside the two-dimensional planeof the painting is his involvement with and influence on reality. However, his capacity totranscend the borders of canvas and wall and to become the temporary focus of his surroundings,are not the only reason that lead to his taking the guise of a sculpture. The work seems to havegrown from the necessity of direct interaction with, or even the urge to dominate the reality thatsurrounds the sculpture. If we apply the concept of the destructive genesis of meaning within thisframework, we can expect that the sculpture will almost literally succeed in destroying everyfunction of the context and place where it is situated, with the only aim to create new meanings.But this creation of new meanings, this genesis can only happen from a subjective interaction.

The position and function, not only of the public, but as it were of the entire town orenvironment of which the sculpture has become the focus, are in other words crucial in theprocess of lending meaning. This form of interaction is not a variation on the interaction that mayresult in the museum when the spectator finds himself or herself before the painting and is at best“sucked into” the work.[10] This being “sucked in”, is in first instance a passive event. Thespectator stands in front of the painting and looks upon the work from a confrontationalstandpoint. But in case of The Walker the spectator stands near the sculpture or in the space ofthe sculpture, and both the space and the sculpture acquire meaning through their mutualinteraction and the interaction with the public.[11] Thus the sculpture can potentially change reality,or charge it with new meanings, coined from the fragments of the old ones.

For Delrue The Walker seems to be the starting point for a series of three-dimensionalsculptures that are all (or at least partially) entitledMind Sculpture. These sculptures originatedduring the artist's stays at the European Ceramic Work Centre in 's Hertogenbosch. [12] What strikesus at first sight is the improved technique. Delrue seems to have seized the opportunity offeredby the workshops to learn to master the techniques of modelling, firing and colouring bakedearth. [13] The result is a series of almost perfect monochromous black/grey sculptures. The figuresseem to have grown silent and are much further removed from the art of painting than e.g. TheWalker. It is as if when the artist starts to master the medium and is increasingly in control of thematerial, the sculptures not only distance themselves from the paintings and drawings, buticonographically they grow silent. At first sight they seem more subdued, and because of thatalso more autonomous. When we first meet them, they even look relatively unequivocal.

But there are elements here that undermine our reassurance. Among these is doubtlesslythe title, Mind Sculpture, followed by a date. The fact that all sculptures have the same title,indicates that they are less autonomous than we first thought. These are sculptures of the mind,fragments of one seeking. Only because of their fragmentary character can they keep up theappearance of stillness. Considering the title, I think it would be inappropriate to gather all (past,present and future) fragments and unite them, other than in a mental reality. Should we ever doso, they might look like a scattered army of disparate monochromous shapes: a distressing andcomplex image which—once again like the primordial sculpture of The Walker—only acquiresmeaning if it can generate that meaning itself, can only generate meaning if it can destroymeanings (those that belong to a certain context) and can only destroy meanings through itsinteraction with the spectator and the context. The whole of these fragments, of these shards ofthe mind, certainly relates to the pictorial landscape we departed from...

The conscious choice of the artist for the medium of baked earth—a medium that requiresa certain degree of handicraft and is usually associated with design and amateurism, not withprofessional art—cannot be coincidental in that sense and certainly contributes to theiconographic complexity of these works. [14] The luminous dark pigment of the exterior, whichcontrasts with the empty, raw interior, and which from this contrast exposes the image itself, isboth an echo of the teeming colours in many of Delrue's paintings and a reminiscence of theoften monochromous, simple, but also magisterial pencil drawings that together make up hisdiary notes. Moreover, not a single narrative interpretation of Delrue's work is ever entirelysatisfactory. Because of the fragmentary character of the images (and, as we will see later, of thediary fragments) it is intrinsically impossible to construct a linear narrative interpretation. It issimply not possible to contemplate the work in its entirety: we merely manage to focus onfragments. The spectator finds himself or herself in the middle of the work and loses all track ofthe situation...

Second intermezzo. A brief conclusion concerning The Walker

Before I finally jump to the diary notes, I would like to conclude with an comment on theiconographic content of the title. With the choice of the title—the fact that the feet of thesculpture are positioned next to each other and do not suggest the slightest intention to move, isactually crucial, but its importance has never been pointed to—Delrue above all wants TheWalker to embark on a mental walk. That seems in stark opposition with the unmistakablystrongly physical presence of the sculpture, which only heightens the attraction and ambiguity ofthe work.

However, iconographically and because of the title, The Walker seems to be related to theenquiries of the French Jesuit and philosopher Michel de Certeau, who encourages people towalk, preferably even to stroll aimlessly, blindly straying, which for him is part of a scientificmethod. In a splendid collection of essays on the work of Certeau, Rudi Laermans writes: […]hence the never ending quest […] for the secret methodological paths […]. [15] Elsewhere in thisbook the eminent philosopher Peter Venmans writes on the strategy of Certeau to appropriateurban space, in order to get a hold on reality: […] Instead of devising cities with his pen, hewrites about his wanderings, his experiences as a city stroller, paying more attention to detailsthan to the gist of his argument, responding nimbly to stimuli, always on the move […] .[16] In thatsense the original interpretation of a figure with the eyes lacking as a more or less universalexpression of a mental walk, is definitely insufficient and will not allow us to understand thissculpture thoroughly.

A short but important excursion into the everyday and a rejection of the universal

The link between the works in baked earth and the diary notes is of course self-evident.The latter, too, are fragments of the mind: Mind Sculptures on paper. There are plenty of them,probably because of their simplicity and the fundamental aspect of drawing. There can be nodoubt that for Delrue the diary notes comprise the foundations of his artistic calling. For himeverything seems to start and end with a drawing. Whether we are referring to paintings,etchings, photographs, sculptures or even paintings-drawings: every single work is rooted in themost simple and for an artist the most natural and everyday act of drawing.

The artist himself refers to the fundamental and the everyday aspect of drawing bylinking the drawings to a diary—not as sketches or studies, but invariably as an autonomousmedium. Others have written outstanding articles on the significance thereof. [17] I will thereforesuffice with an attempt to make a few minor corrections and refinements with regard to theinterpretation.

If I were pressed to describe Delrue's entire oeuvre in a few words, I would of courseobject—it is essentially impossible to do so—but the phrase “the cultivation of the everyday andeveryday life” would probably be a good approach of how I currently experience his work. Fromthe preceding argument it is already obvious that Delrue's entire oeuvre breathes ourcontemporary society, in an almost majestic, transcendent and so obvious manner that maybe wefirst tend to focus on other aspects. But in fact, not only its roots in everyday life, but also theglorification of it are probably the quintessence of his entire artistic production.

If we think further about this fact, we inevitably clash with the so-called universalexpressiveness of the faceless figures. How can these characters on the one hand representeveryday life and on the other hand be symbolic of a universal humanity? Surely that isimpossible!! At a certain moment a remarkable shift has occurred in the literature about Delrue.Anonymous figures in an anonymous surroundings, is a phrase that spontaneously returns to mymind when I think back about the things I have read. But nothing is less true. Neither the figuresare anonymous, nor the surroundings.

It is, however, true that the surroundings is hardly ever defined. It is without perspective,and the total lack of a cultivated landscape or environment maybe indeed opens the door to theuniversal. In a sublime, more general essay about the landscape, Frank Maes put it this way: […]I depart from the sense that the landscape is not a universal fact: it appears only in specificcultural contexts. The concept actually belongs to the town-dweller, who looks at hissurroundings from an (aesthetical, conceptual) distance, so as to be able to overview it andrepresent it (landscape in the city, city in the landscape). Farmers or nomads do not createlandscapes. The emergence of the landscape in the early Renaissance implied the birth of theautonomous individual, who, however, has lost a great deal of his status in the meantime. Whatimplications this fact involves for the landscape? Robert Smithson has written and arguedamazing things about this. When the individual crumbles (or starts to show serious holes), willthe landscape, too, cave in or will the borders become blurred and hazy? All those categorieseveryone for so long has considered clear and well-defined: the individual versus his or hersurroundings, in which he or she creates an image within a two-dimensional framework, animage that for the spectator functions as a window onto a new and at the same time familiar,true-to-life world in the white exhibition space that is isolated from the surroundings. I know, theuniverse with perspectival properties has been abandoned more than a century ago, in the 1960sthe environments and installations were born and in the 1970s art left the museum on a spree outto embrace life. Yet all the same, 500 years later the perspectival image still has a strangleholdon us and is considered by everyone as realistic […] .[18]

Because perspective lacks in the diary notes and the large drawings (often in the paintingsas well), the figures move freely in a space that claims to be universal. Yet, this space does notradiate optimism, as it remains anonymous, and therefore leaves us disoriented and adrift. Evenmore depressing are the figures, which literally lack a face and a perspective (though in recentyears they sometimes have eyeballs that look like black holes). In that sense these characters arenot universal: they are literally and figuratively perspectiveless creatures, linked to a culture.They are without face and cannot hope to face a better future.[19] The characters are oftenembryonic self-portraits, which however developed into more or less separate figures. Facelessthey roam infinity, almost drowning in the amorphous and hostile surroundings.

Healing at last, but departing from the everyday

As we already intimated, in recent years some light shines in the darkness. A light that isprobably related to the more positive biography of the artist himself, but that above all illustratesthe conscious or unconscious quest for a way out, for a perspective, for a future—a quest thatmay even have been inspired by a social commitment.

In first instance we obviously refer to the sculptures and works in baked earth. As weargued, with these works Delrue seeks interaction. And by definition, interaction, no matter howminimal it may be, causes movement, causes cracks to appear in the flat, hopeless plane, which,because of their energetic potential, may offer a perspective. The works in baked earth sometimeslook like architectural models, and often engage in a direct relationship with the physicallandscape. As such, they become an antidote against the hard, desperate reality that underliesthem.

This is even more obvious in the opening the artist makes in a series of manipulated andthen heliogravured photographs. It is no coincidence Delrue is seen at jumble sales searching forphoto albums with family snapshots and the like. With paint, Indian ink, a knife, pencil, etc. hemanipulates/erases the faces. In this way once cosy family scenes acquire a menacing, sinistertrait. Though these are just ordinary snapshots featuring anonymous people, it is as if theybecome even more anonymous. But taking into account our previous analysis, also a contraryinterpretation is plausible: it is not the artist's primary concern to alienate or create a threateningatmosphere, nor is it simply a matter of scratching out the eyes or faces and catapulting the(actually a priori anonymous) memories into oblivion. On the contrary: we get the impressionthat the artist wants to achieve the opposite. By hiding something, it becomes emphaticallypresent. By painting out the faces, Delrue makes us curious about the ordinary, everyday portraitsof people in their everyday surroundings, which would otherwise—if ever we set eyes onthem—leave us entirely indifferent.

We should briefly point out that also this work is consistent with the interpretation ofDelrue's works as the “cultivation of the everyday”. Precisely this cultivation of the everyday, thecommonplace, is emphasized rather strongly in this instance, on the one hand because the artisthas chosen to work with family albums that have been discarded, on the other hand because hesometimes blows up the usually small photographs, using the technique of heliogravure (or otherprinting techniques). The cracks in the Indian ink seem like literal cracks in the dark, hopelessanonymity of the characters. This time the landscape and the surroundings are definitely notuniversal: rather, they are a match for the environment in which we sometimes see The Walker.What results are large, imposing social portraits, devoid of any cynicism and navel-gazing. Aseries of five large heliogravures was first exhibited in 2006 in the Cabinet des Estampes et desDessins (CED) (Print and Drawing Gallery) in Liège with the title Lost memories & nouvelleshistoires. [20] Briefly, ephemerally, the public can turn lost, anonymous memories into a newnarrative. From the fragments of old, everyday stories continuously new, transfigured, but alsotransient stories and more or less vague memories are born.

The title Lost Memories (initially Delrue was undecided between Last or Lost Memories,but finally he opted for the more hopeful Lost) once more refers to the light in thedarkness—better a recollection that aspires to be forgotten and destroyed in the dark labyrinth ofthe human mind, than a recollection that implies that things have come to an end. Yet, because ofthe constantly lurking presence of the Cerebriraptor, because of time passing—a fact we becomeincreasingly aware of—and the large or small diary notes and drawings, we sense that the lightcan turn into complete darkness any time.

Rolf Quaghebeur


November-December 2006

[1] And, rather equivocally, endorsing the words of the architect/artist/speleologist Wim Cuyvers:“The essay (and hence also the chronicle) is a medium that does not support doubt: like in apublic address, there is always the urge to postulate and to conclude.” Wim Cuyvers, Tekst overtekst (Text on Text), Den Haag, Lier, 2005, p. 87.

[2] The work is part of the collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Ghent (S.M.A.K.)and features in various publications about Delrue's work, including the monograph by KoenLeemans, Eva Wittocx (eds.), Peter De Graeve et. al., Ronny Delrue. Portretten (Portraits),, Mechelen, CC De Garage, 2002, p. 38.

[3] Francis Bacon, Entretiens avec Michel Archimbaud, Paris, 1996, p. 48: “Non, vous savez,même s’il a été le plus intelligent des artistes pop, l’intelligence n’a jamais fait l’art, n’a jamaisfait la peinture… malheureusement.”

[4] Ibid. note 3 : Qu’est-ce qui fait la peinture? / On ne sait pas. / Mais si ça n’est pas seulementune question d’intelligence, ça vient d’où la peinture: du coeur, de l’estomac, des tripes? / On nesait pas d’où ça vient.

[5] Compare below the paragraph where I refer to the aspects of function and meaning of theworks in baked earth.

[6] Rolf Quaghebeur, Onzichtbaar Gemaakt - Made Invisible, in: Franky D.C, Rolf Quaghebeur etal., Eye Contact, exh. cat., S.M.A.K., Ghent, 2006, p. 16-29.

[7] Ephemerality , a group exhibition with works by fifteen artists, on five locations in Menen,curated by Christophe De Jaegher. For more information: (last consultedDecember 23, 2006).

[8] Mohammed Arkoun, The city context and/versus traditions of sense making: Islam,Evangelical/Pentecostal Missions, keynote lecture on the occasion of Making Sense in the City.Culture, community and identity in an urban world, a symposium presided by Prof. Rik Pinxten(University Ghent), December 17-20, 2006, organized by the Centre for InterculturalCommunication and Interaction, Department of Comparative Cultural Sciences, UniversityGhent).

[9] In this respect and in what follows I would like to point out that The Walker is one of the fewworks by Delrue that were not given a code, date or location as title. This fact alone must drawthe attention of the spectator and it is as if we are warned that this work signals a turning point orholds the key to the artist's oeuvre.

[10] It is certainly not my intention to downgrade the aesthetic or social value of the pictorialexperience—on the contrary. For clarity's sake, however, I juxtapose painting with sculpture inthis instance. I would also like to remind the reader that in what preceded I have departed from a“three-dimensional painted sculpture”. The juxtaposition I refer to results from the attempt toexplain the genesis of sculptural images within this essentially pictorial oeuvre. But it is by nomeans the only possible point of departure.

[11] The distinction I propound here, is of course not new. The principle can e.g. also be applied tothe experience of Gothic architecture. In modern and contemporary art it has a lot to do with thedevelopment of video and installation art. Curator Filip Luyckx has written with great clarity onthis subject in the catalogue for the exhibition Dream Extensions: Filip Luyckx, RolfQuaghebeur (ed.) et. al., Dream Extensions , exh. cat., S.M.A.K., Ghent, 2004, p.

[12] The sculptures I here refer to originated during a stay at the ECWC in 's Hertogenboschbetween the end of 2004 and early 2005. Some of these feature in Patrick Allegaert, DieterRoelstraete et. al., Ronny Delrue. A Mind Map, exh. cat., Museum Dr. Guislain, Ghent, 2005.

[13] At Delrue's request I explicitly use the term baked earth instead of ceramics. On the one handthe term emphasizes the (fundamental and essential) qualities of the medium, while on the otherhand it prevents confusion with the depreciatory connotations of the term ceramics within theworld of contemporary art (a handicraft practised by people who mess with clay, kilns andglaze.)

[14] We need only think of e.g. the biblical story of the creation (Gen. 2: 7), which describes howGod created man in his own image. What strikes us in Delrue's work, is that a lot of thecharacters in the paintings, drawings and consequently the sculptures (cf. The Walker whodescends from the painting) can formally be interpreted as self-portraits. Linking this fact to thecreation myth we just mentioned, we could say that the artist not only behaves like a traveller,like a searching mind, but also—maybe above all—as a creator, a sort of God who creates hisown universe. Because of that, he is (unconsciously) creating a personal mythology. There is analmost direct link here with artists such as Joseph Beuys or, closer to home, Jan Fabre, who froma belief in the comforting and magical power of the image start to behave like a shaman, highpriest or healer. Part of the strategy required therefore is precisely the creation of a personalmythology. In my view that is not inspired by tactical or commercial reasons: it is simplyprompted by the paradigm in which the artist sees himself as a sort of doctor for a sick society.See also the first intermezzo (on painting) in this text. Discussing all consequences of this ideafalls outside the scope of this publication, but there can be no doubt the consequences aremanifold. In this context a recent article of mine about the relation between the visual arts andpsychopathology can be a start for a more in depth study: Rolf Quaghebeur, Knoop uit Knoop.Enkele gedachten over de verhouding tussen hedendaagse kunst en psychopathologie [Knot fromKnot. Some thoughts on the relation between contemporary art and psychopathology] , in:Patrick Allegaert, Frederik De Preester (ed.), Roger Cardinal et. al., Verborgen Werelden.Outsiderkunst in het Museum Dr. Guislain [Hidden Worlds. Art of Outsiders in the Museum Dr.Guislain], Ghent, Tielt, 2006, p. 73-80. On the positive function and essential meaning ofamateurism in contemporary art I am currently preparing a text that will probably be publishedfor the Witte Zaal (

[15] Koenraad Geldof and Rudi Laermans (ed) et. al., Sluipwegen van het denken. Over Michel deCerteau [Secret Paths of Thinking. On Michel de Certeau], Nijmegen, 1996, p. 12. The functionof walking in contemporary art I have discussed at length , though from another point of view inthe text about Franky D.C referred to above.

[16] Peter Venmans, Certeau/Perec: schrijven as tactiek [Certeau/Perec: Writing as Strategy], in:Koenraad Geldof and Rudi Laermans (ed.), Ibid., 1996, p. 89.

[17] See e.g. the wonderful, richly illustrated book Laurent Busine (red.), Jon Thompson, BernardDewulf, Ronny Delrue. Dagboeknotities [Diary Notes], Ghent, 2005, or maybe even moreessential, though less sumptuous: Ann Demeester, Jan Hoet, Dirk Schutyser, Mise en atelier parl’artiste [Placed in the Studio by the Artist], Ghent, 2000.

[18] Frank Maes, land’schap, o. (-pen) [Land'scapes, o. (pen)], Newsletter Witte Zaal, Ghent, No.1, 2006.

[19] The most unambiguous, clear argument that substantiates this view can be read in RobertMusil, The Man without Qualities.

[20] Ronny Delrue, Lost memories & nouvelles histoires, exhibition in the Cabinet des Estampes etdes Dessins in Liège. The exhibition was organized on the occasion of Delrue's winning the firstprize at the 5ième biennale internationale de la Gravure de Liège. The works are on view from November 24, 2006 till February 11, 2007. (

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