Introducing French artist Hélène Delprat, whose multifaceted practice has engaged the human condition for more than four decades, exploring life and death in an oeuvre that includes painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, video, theater, interview projects and installations. Oscillating between fiction and documentary, humor and melancholy, Delprat’s works together comprise a sprawling constellation of references to literature, film, radio, philosophy, internet databases, national histories and art history.  

After finding success in the 1980s and 1990s for a distinctively primitive style of figurative painting, Delprat turned her focus to video, theater, installations and projects for radio. In the late aughts, she returned to her painting practice, which has since been shaped by an encyclopedic research process to accumulate a remarkable archive of sources she records across various mediums, including her online blog of images and writings, ‘Days.’ 

Ahead of her first exhibition with Hauser & Wirth Paris in January 2024, we met the artist inside her atelier located in a former rail yard in Argenteuil, Paris, where ‘there is no external temptation. That is to say, when I’m here, I stay here to work.’

Hélène Delprat in her Paris atelier, 2023

Hélène Delprat, L'apparition, 2023 © Hélène Delprat, ADAGP, Paris, 2023. Photo: Rebecca Fanuele

On her process  
Materially, I start from scratch, but intellectually, I start from everything I see, from all the images that I see, from the databases that I consult on the Internet. I make collections of images, I print images. But there’s no preparatory work, if you like, for paintings, even for very large paintings. When I start, I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to do. There’s no preparatory work, except all this input, all these readings, all these curiosities, all the photos that I take: it could be a pair of shoes in a store, it could be someone drinking coffee, it could be a piece of cloud. So, I’m always alert. Again, I’m like hunting. I say to myself that there is something here that will be important.

On her favorite place in Paris  
I have a favorite library. It's the library of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. In this library, there's a collection called le fonds à Maciet. Imagine a room eight times the length of this room, and there are albums all along it. It's like a paper encyclopedia, a man who glued pictures into albums. So there are birds, bridges, architecture, torture tools, business cards, and the books are very heavy. And when you flip through it, it's completely out of time. Now you look at it—click, click, click, click—the whole album, I can see it in 1 second. It's brilliant, it's very beautiful.

Hélène Delprat in her Paris atelier, 2023

On beauty  
We have said a thousand things about it. There are ideals of beauty, rules of beauty. I’m not in that category since my beauty is rather atrocious. It’s everything that sizzles: all the oppositions, all the ideas that contradict each other, all the dreadful things, everything that’s failed, can create beauty. 

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