It almost feels like a debut. Never before has Delphine Courtillot created a work of art for a public area. During the summer months of Façade, her installation ‘The Source’ is located on the Helm, the square at University College Roosevelt. Five more than two meter high pillars most reminiscent of volcanic chimneys, deep in the ocean.
The Paris-born artist enthusiastically talks about her how she found Norman coastal rock formations and stones this spring, while on holiday at the coast of Normandy: ” You are literally walking on chalk that is millions of years old. It is a confrontation with geological antiquity. “That’s fascinating.” When she talks about her work, a range of vocabulary can be destilled: Nature, geology, source, dreams.
Delphine Courtillot started her career as a painter. During her youth in Paris she was a frequent visitor of the many film houses. Film noir as well as a Japanese classics such as ‘Tales of the Pale and Silvery Moon after the Rain’ by Kenzi Mizoguchi delivered her – as she says – ‘a poetic imagery language’: “I was not a storyteller, so I could not become a filmmaker.” I later translated the language of imagery that I acquired at that time into my paintings.”
Until 2010, when she quit abruptly , “I had been working very intensely since 2002.” Suddenly it was as if the light inside me went out, I no longer lived for the paintings. It was also the time I became a mother, our daughter Cornelia was born, I was becoming a different person. And was in need of a new voyage of discovery.”
It presented itself. Together with Folkert de Jong, she made a décor for a theater company in New York. “That was liberating.” I started making jewelry made of clay. I purely followed my intuition and suddenly, I felt the flame of creativity in me again. With the switch to ceramics I felt I could regain a sense of innocence. I made organic forms that are remeniscent of archaeological finds, images that bring you back to the primitive state of human nature. It was as if the clay had its own voice, as if I were a medium.”
That trance, that ritual, does not play a part in the work she has created for façade. According to her, anyone who works with clay on a large scale cannot work intuitively. “baking is a delicate operation.” Forces are released when stacking and firing, everything always wants to come down. Everything is heavy, laborious. This work didn’t happen spontaneously, it was like climbing a rock.”
Picture deep-sea caves, volcanic chimneys at the bottom of the ocean, ‘scholar stones’, which have become landscape-formed in nature and are particularly appreciated in Asia. These associations are valuable to the artist. She made whimsical pillars, sand-colored with bright accents, which are most akin to a geological formation in a stalactite cave: “should you encounter them in Middelburg, should you see something like that, then I hope it gets you thinking.” For my location I have explicitly chosen the university square. Many young people pass by, I like that. Perhaps I can reach them, perhaps they will stop for a minute to think about the future of the earth. Because that is necessary. We have entered the anthropogenic, the geological age of man. Now, more than ever, we need to think about the earth in a generous way.”
Delphine Courtillot (Paris, 1972) lives and works in Amsterdam. She studied in Vancouver at Emily Carr University of Art and Design and in Paris at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts. Her work was exhibited in exhibitions worldwide in New York, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Valencia and Leipzig and is housed in various private, business and museum collections such as Chadha Art Collection, Pérez Art Museum Miami, Henry Art Gallery Seattle. Delphine Courtillot is represented in the Netherlands by Galerie Dudodegroot in Amsterdam.