"The artwork is not there to deliver a message but rather to speak to you in an emotional way, and to tell a part of the story of the beholder."
From a young age, artist Delphine Rama has been exposed to the world of art. Her father is an acclaimed art critic in Belgium and his influence on the artist is quite apparent. She started to paint from a young age and was fascinated by the geometric shapes of structures she sees, and so she studied architecture. However, on the side, Rama would still dabble in the arts. It was her passion project but she took a step further and pursued making art her full-time career.
In this new exhibition called "Fauna Allegoria" curated by Marina Oechsner De Coninck, her artworks act as a spiritual gateway for viewers. She doesn't dictate what message her pieces should convey but rather, the person draws on their own experiences and interprets its meaning. The theme for the exhibition is Nature and our relationship with it.
Ahead is a short catch up with Delphine Rama.
You were born in 1988 in Liege, Belgium and after studying architecture, you obtained a Fine Arts degree from the prestigious Académie Royale des Beaux Arts in Brussels. Tell us about your first steps as an artist?
I believe that art has always been present in my life. As far as I can remember, I have always been drawing. I think I'm on a constant search, night and day. I observe everything around me. I studied a lot and without asking myself questions about the status of an artist, I turned to painting because I appreciate the freedom it gives me. I started to experiment a lot at home, alone, after work. I never imagined that my passion would occupy such a big place in my life. Nowadays, I am mostly focusing on my technique, on the next vision, the next concept.
Your father is an acclaimed art critic in Belgium - is it true that you were brought up in an inspiring and artistic environment?
Yes, I have very inspiring parents. They always took us along with them to visit museums, art galleries or the studios of their artist friends all over Europe. My father is also a painter and storyteller, he always knows fascinating stories. We were three children and therefore we always played together with all kinds of materials in the gardens or in the artists' kitchens. I believe that the gaze on art naturally develops. On a human level too, you meet interesting adults but you also understand from a very young age the difficulty of this magnificent profession.
You mentioned several times "I have always been fascinated by the stories of fashion designers; the colour range used in certain collections inspire me". Where does that fascination for the world of fashion come from?
I have always loved making clothes to dress all the living shapes around me. I always looked at fashion magazines and tried to replicate styles. I think about designers like Dries Van Noten and find his colour palette is just amazing. He has an incomparable skill for associations and he is exceptionally refined. They are artists. Clothing can also be seen as an expression of today's world. It is a medium like any other.
Can you name the contemporary fashion designer you admire the most?
There are a lot of them. I think of Claire Sullivan who is part of the Vaquera label. This label has a very liberated soul. The creators of the label mix symbols and the whole show is just strong and magnetic. I am also thinking of Matthew Williams, the new artistic director of Givenchy. Just like my paintings, I particularly like a certain geometric construction. With Matthew Williams, I found a common point between him and my art, which is the structured silhouettes that have been elegantly articulated in his designs.
What type of media do you usually work with?
I work mostly on linen and have also done some work more recently on leather. The creation of colours is the "fun" part. I create the majority of my colours. I am quite picky about the nuances of tones. I usually work with acrylics but I also use water-based spray cans. Far or near, graffiti has always been a part of my life, I just keep this habit.
Your last solo exhibition in Singapore was titled "The Third Force" - a very strong concept. Can you tell us more about it?
The Third Force is an approach in psychology that is based on a positive view of the human being. It is also a psychotherapeutic model that relies on developing one's potential. It is a mobilisation of its forces to be realised. I wanted to translate this regenerated energy that often appears after more torturing moments. I think our passions are great healers in our lives. They give you stability and emotional confidence that nothing and no one can give you.
Architectural forms provide a strong inspiration throughout your art. The composition and the choice of colours on your canvas are also meticulously researched. How would you define your style?
It's impossible for me to define my style. Often others do it for you. But it is certain that my style is very influenced by constructivism - the abstract and non-objective art. I have always admired artists like Naum Gabo. Kandinsky's or Rothko's analysis of colours is obviously very inspiring too.
What emotions do you hope the viewers experience when looking at your art?
I love when the viewer gets carried away by their imagination. Sometimes the title/work relationship takes on meaning in one's eyes; sometimes the viewer makes their own interpretation. The artwork is not there to deliver a message but rather to speak to you in an emotional way, and to tell a part of the story of the beholder.
What are five words that best describe your art?
Destruction, arrangement, harmony, dynamic, and contrast.
What has been your latest project? What is planned for you across 2022?
I have a collective exhibition with 14 other artists from Europe, Singapore, and China from December 12. The exhibition is called "Fauna Allegoria" curated by Marina Oechsner De Coninck and located at 63 Upper Gallery Spottiswoode Park Road. The artists explore the fantasy and the sense of free spirit found in a natural environment.
My next project will be in 2022 during the Singapore Art Week. I am also participating in a group exhibition called "Antinodes" on the fifth floor of Tanjong Pagar Distripark. I am currently in the midst of preparing a super large format on the concept of dissonance where I will be performing psycho-acoustic works. Lastly, I will be spending a few months in Europe to carry out other projects in Brussels.
What can visitors expect to see from you at Fauna Allegoria?
I have prepared a collection inspired by birds but also on the subject of protection. The exhibition also focuses on the use of organic materials. I think the viewers will find artworks that speak to their spiritual selves at the exhibition. All of the works clearly evoke a desire for the liberation of the soul in a closed environment. A situation that we have all experienced in recent years. The exhibition will therefore be a wind of poetry, an open door to the savagery and fantasy of the mind.
You now live in Singapore. Can you share with our readers your favourite museum in the Lion City?
Without hesitation, I would say it's the National Gallery. I am immediately drawn to the architecture of the place. Furthermore, I've always thought that you can best discover a culture through art. So I was able to have the chance to begin by understanding the different artistic waves that Asia had gone through. I knew a lot of European stories but very little about Southeast Asia. In the museum, it has a series of works by artist Chua Mia. Then another beautiful discovery at the museum is the sculptures of Antony Gormley. He explores the relationship between the body and space.
So far, what is your most vivid memory of life in Asia?
I think the first time I went to Asia was for the wedding of my Singaporean friend Maya and her boyfriend. They got married in Ubud, Bali. I do not know if it is the view over the rice fields where the Kecak Fire Dance is performed, but seeing this spectacle steeped with the history of civilisations and spiritualism was very impressive and will be forever etched in my memory.
If you were to name one mentor who has inspired you in your life and path as an artist, who would that be?
Of course, my dad would be in the first place. He has awakened my love for the arts and its virtues from a very young age. He always believed in me and I always admired him a lot. Then it will be one of those artist friends in my life like Raymond Art, also a Belgian artist. We had one of his collections of paintings at home, I have seen it for most of my life. I believe that without him my art would never have been what it is.