Though she’s an unusual artist who defies categories, Hélène Delprat defines herself as a painter. And yet, her work dialogues with other media while exploring questions of memory, travel, and identity. Her baroque (yet coherent) bric-à-brac draws its inspiration from literature, film and history.
In her art, extravagant and impenetrable dreams reign supreme. It can be described as a parade of surprises, filled with disproportionate and disquieting fictions. Delprat has taken over Nantes as if it were an urban theatre, telling a story by adding set pieces and freely drawing inspiration from the city’s history.
On Place Graslin, a “star-island” has been taken over by the dark silhouette of an angel, whose arms and wings are spread open, while it rails against the hubbub of the city through a loudspeaker. A flag waves, frozen in the air. A little further on in the distance, the missing trident from the Place Royale fountain has been replaced by a flag made of shiny fabric. Backstage, at the base of the square outside Saint-Nicolas Basilica, a strange parade is taking place. Gigantic black silhouettes strut out onto a second black star that is now a small stage.
“Annoying monkeys look for a fight and a goat stands on its hind legs, while nameless characters escape from some Final Judgement, laughing all the way. With his cane, a wolf-master-of-ceremonies inaugurates a ball where animals, humans and hybrids are clueless as to what to do. Is this star a raft? A Noah’s Ark stranded on a square outside a basilica?”
The characters gesticulate wildly and parade about in one last agitated procession straight out of a macabre dance. They take over the square and let visitors enjoy their laughable, whimsical presence. And since masks are still on everyone’s minds, Delprat has bedecked façades on both sides of the street with gigantic drapes decorated with motifs of characters and faux-coats of arms. Angels, wolf-men, and monkeys blow their bugles and call out for one and all to join their party.
Hélène Delprat was born in 1957. She lives and works in Paris, and is represented by Galerie Christophe Gaillard.