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20140825053245-a_harsh_metaphorc2014_delphine_boel_photo_jf_dewitte 20140825053346-artist_delphine_boel_shut_up_and_listen_c_photo_patricia_mathieu_press 20140825053422-an_end_to_the_agonyc2013_delphine_boel_photo_jf_dewitte 20140825053518-delphine_boelc2014_photo_jf_dewitte 20140825053634-hope_springs_eternalc2014_delphine_boel 20140825053755-i_am_not_beatenc2013_delphine_boel_photo_jf_dewitte 20140825053946-i_am_not_brokenc2013_delphine_boel_photo_jf_dewitte 20140825054215-i_am_still_standingc2013_delphine_boel_photo_jf_dewitte 20140825054302-i_questioncdelphine_boel_photo_jf_dewitte
'rak'rüm (noun);
the back room of an art gallery
where artists and art lovers hang
A Harsh Metaphor, Delphine BoëlDelphine Boël, A Harsh Metaphor, 2014
© photo JF DeWitte
 Shut Up and Listen  , Delphine BoëlDelphine Boël, Shut Up and Listen
© photo Patricia Mathieu
An End to the Agony , Delphine BoëlDelphine Boël, An End to the Agony ,
2014 , Glitter and Pigmented Ink on 300 g/sqm Paper mounted in Wood and Glass Frame , W 95 x H 155 (cm)
© Delphine Boël
Delphine Boel , Delphine BoëlDelphine Boël, Delphine Boel , 2014
© photo JF DEWITTE
Letter to God – Hope Springs Eternal , Delphine BoëlDelphine Boël,
Letter to God – Hope Springs Eternal ,
2014 , Glitter, Chinese and Acrylic Ink on Chinese Paper, Diptych W 110 x H 78 (cm) in Plexi frame
© Delphine Boël
I Am Not Beaten, Delphine BoëlDelphine Boël, I Am Not Beaten, 2013
© photo JF DEWITTE
I AM Not Broken , Delphine BoëlDelphine Boël, I AM Not Broken , 2013
© photo JF DEWITTE
I Am Still Standing , Delphine BoëlDelphine Boël, I Am Still Standing , 2013
© photo JF DEWITTE
I, Question  , Delphine BoëlDelphine Boël, I, Question ,
2014, Silver-Plated Bronze and Stainless Steel, W 45 cm H 57cm D 35 cm
© Delphine Boël
I Am the Question , Delphine BoëlDelphine Boël, I Am the Question , 2013
© photo JF DEWITTE
Letter to God – Listen to Me, Delphine BoëlDelphine Boël, Letter to God – Listen to Me,
2014 , Glitter, Chinese and Acrylic Ink on Chinese Paper, Diptych W 169 x H 157 (cm) in Plexi frame
© Delphine Boël
Don’t take NO for an answer -  neon , Delphine BoëlDelphine Boël,
Don’t take NO for an answer - neon ,
2014, As pictured measures W 160 x H 30 (cm)
© Delphine Boël
HYPOCRITE , Delphine BoëlDelphine Boël, HYPOCRITE ,
2014, neon, As pictured measures W 200 x H 270
© Delphine Boël
PRAY HARDER , Delphine BoëlDelphine Boël, PRAY HARDER ,
2013 , neon, As pictured measures W 200 x H 270
© Delphine Boël
 Truth EQ Freedom, Delphine BoëlDelphine Boël, Truth EQ Freedom,
2014, neon
© Delphine Boel
Pray Harder - Blue , Delphine BoëlDelphine Boël, Pray Harder - Blue , 2014
© Delphine Boël / photo JF DEWITTE
Letter to God – Make It Stop  , Delphine BoëlDelphine Boël, Letter to God – Make It Stop ,
2014 , Glitter, Chinese and Acrylic Ink on Chinese Paper , Diptych W 169 x H 157 (cm) in Plexi frame
© Delphine Boël
Pray Harder - Carrara , Delphine BoëlDelphine Boël, Pray Harder - Carrara , 2014
© Delphine Boël / photo JF DEWITTE
, Delphine BoëlDelphine Boël
What the Fuck Happend  , Delphine BoëlDelphine Boël, What the Fuck Happend ,
© Delphine Boël / photo JF DEWITTE
Pray Harder - Eternally , Delphine BoëlDelphine Boël, Pray Harder - Eternally ,
© Delphine Boël / photo JF DEWITTE
Pray Harder - Red Verona  , Delphine BoëlDelphine Boël, Pray Harder - Red Verona ,
© Delphine Boël / photo JF DEWITTE
Blabla, Delphine BoëlDelphine Boël, Blabla
The Bloody Question , Delphine BoëlDelphine Boël, The Bloody Question ,
2014 , Chinese and Acrylic Inks on Chinese paper , W 58 x H 78 (cm)
© Delphine Boël
XOXO , Delphine BoëlDelphine Boël, XOXO
© Delphine Boël / photo JF DEWITTE
Whyy Question , Delphine BoëlDelphine Boël, Whyy Question , 2013
© Delphine Boël / photo JF DEWITTE
Delphine Boël is known for creating multi-media artworks overflowing with colour, texture and humour. Even though she has lived the majority of her life in London, her spirit remains absolutely and typically Belgian: "la joie de vivre"; not taking oneself too seriously and individualistic.[more]

Pray Harder: An Interview with Delphine Boël

Brussels, Aug 2014: In Delphine Boël’s witty and thought-provoking Pray Harder exhibition at Guy Pieters Gallery on the Belgian coast throughout September an anonymous letter writer sends God a series of imploring, coquettish and frustrated letters. The only response this devotee receives, mostly conveyed in the form of sculptures, is “Pray Harder.” This series, like all Boël’s art, wraps fraught, raw and heavy content in cheerful colours, frisky forms and an upbeat attitude. Boël’s artwork is defined by the tensions between her chirpy aesthetic sensibility and her tough-minded disdain for pretention, hypocrisy and culturally consecrated euphemism. She became a public figure in Belgium when the news media revealed her probable lineage as the illegitimate daughter of Baroness Sybille de Selys Longchamps and King Albert II. Since this story broke in 1999, Boël has elegantly interwoven an awareness of her celebrity status and its ramifications into her artworks. Here, she discusses these issues and the material construction of her compelling, joyful, sculptures.

 Delphine Boël, PRAY HARDER, neon, 2013, As pictured measures W 200 x H 270; ©2013 Delphine Boël

Ana Finel Honigman: Can you pinpoint when you developed your distinctive aesthetic and what inspired your signature palette and choice of mediums?

Delphine Boël: The mediums that I use are essential to my work. They carry my message. From my earliest childhood recollections, I have been using bright colours to create a positive world around me.

AFH: Does that work? Do the colours really cheer you?

DB:  Yes. Colour is like sunshine to me. It's also a form of protective armor.

AFH: I am a fashion writer and my niche is the intersection between fashion and art. I really like how your understated and classically chic personal style is almost antithetical to your artistic aesthetic. Is this intentional? What are your motives in your self-presentation and how do those relate to the personal elements in your art?

DB: Good observation. Perhaps unconsciously my sense of style developed through a need to reach out beyond my expected borders. I'm a piece of contemporary art in a classical house.

AFH: How do these issues relate to your sculptures in your "Pray Harder" series?

DB: Since God is in nature to me, the materials had to mimic nature and project a primitive harmony. As for scale, the bigger the better!! For this expo I did smaller scale PRAY HARDER sculptures in order to show various combinations of my rough materials. Since these are not big scale yet, I will be placing the sculptures on high plinths to give the viewer the same perception as if they were looking up at it.

AFH: Is this series about your personal perception of God, or however you identify a higher power? Or, is this series responding to other peoples’ perceptions of God and religion?

DB: Even though this series appears to be very personal, it has more to do with other peoples' perceptions. In this expo, God serves as a metaphor for raw, unchallenged power and religion serves as a universal story element defining our everyday interaction with various types of hierarchies.  

AFH: The God that you’re depicting is pretty frightening and unforgiving.

DB: God's response of "PRAY HARDER" is unrelenting and becomes a wall that can crush hope just as certain hierarchies can artificially construct their own crushing walls and develop their own raw, unchallenged power, too.  

AFH: Where are you in this?

DB: As a further element, I would like to plant the seed of doubt with the viewer about who is the writer, and who is God. Am I always the writer, or am I sometimes delivering the response from God? 

All that said, at least one thing is clear that the letter writer just keeps trying, keeps hope alive. But it gets to be like that old definition of insanity where you keep doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different outcome each time.

AFH: You’ve often used neon in your artworks. What are the physical, sensual and tactical qualities of neon that attracted you to using it as a regular medium?

DB: Neon suits me screams Kitsch! It allows me to tackle difficult subjects with a sense of humour and sarcasm aided by flashy, eye-grabbing light.

Delphine Boël, Pray Harder - Eternally, 2014; ©2013 Delphine Boël


AFH: I really like that you used the word “kitsch.” What do you identify as “bad taste”?

DB: Everyone is different, so I can't give you a definition of bad taste, but I do know it when I see it. 

That said, however, completely over the top kitsch can be beautiful. It can rocket your senses outside of traditional boundaries, a bit like the high baroque.

AFH: Are there qualities that define Belgian artists, the Belgian art scene and art in Brussels? From the outside, it seems fairly conservative with pockets of weirdness. Is that an accurate assessment?

DB: Yes I agree with your observation. "Belgitude" embodies a quirky conservatism that proves that surrealism is alive and well in Belgium. Our daily life is so surreal in so many ways that it's still the key defining artistic influence. Belgium=surreal!

AFH: What is it like seeing your work owned by other people? What are your relationships with your collectors?

DB: I'm not a reclusive artist and I enjoy a certain amount of interaction with my collectors. I like knowing what triggers them to buy a particular piece and what personally speaks to them about it.

Delphine Boël, I, Question,  2014,  W 45 cm H 57cm D 35 cm, Silver-Plated Bronze and Stainless Steel; ©2013 Delphine Boël


AFH: What have you discovered? What triggers your collectors?

DB: The form, the colour, the overall aesthetic draws them to the work at first, and then the message speaks to them.

AFH: How has the press about your life and your biography influenced your work and its reception?

DB: Since I was discovered by the press in 1999, it has become in itself a new medium and subject matter for many of my works. I have come to a better understanding how BIG the influence of press is on all of us.

AFH: Is your work about celebrity and fame? Do you think of yourself as famous?

DB: My work deals with celebrity and fame as accidents of my existence. They are the result of who I was born and the outside world's fascination with power and often incorrect assumptions about privilege. In that sense I am famous, but my fame started as infamy. As like everything else in my life I work hard to change a negative into a positive.


Ana Finel Honigman


ArtSlant would like to thank Delphine Boël for her assistance in making this interview possible.


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