He strings the successes together and stopping is definitely not on his mind yet. The artist still has too many ideas for that. And even if there is the occasional not so positive response, he won’t let it come to his heart. It will only give him an additional portion of motivation to continue creating. Much has already been written and said about his work, but on the occasion of the new exhibition in Brussels, Imagicasa went knocking on Delvoye’s door once again.
How did you end up in the art world, was this something you always wanted to do?
"I always wanted to become an artist, but I had no idea how to start. When a gallery in Brussels contacted me, I didn't even know what a gallery meant. I didn't even have a bell on my door at the time, so the gallerist had to throw stones against my window – something she only succeeded in after quite a lot of stones. Luckily, I was at home. The gallery owner was Jenny Van den Driessche (of the gallery Plus-kern, Ed.), I was 20 years old. When I wanted to call her, I even had to go to a phone booth a few streets away."What was the moment you first got (national/international) recognition for your work? How did that make you feel?
"A few years later I was contacted by Ileana Sonnabend, an important gallery owner from New York. That did cause quite the excitement, because that gallery had a very strong reputation. But there was never a single moment when everything changed: it all went gradually, step by step. That's still the case today."
"I just do what I find interesting. That way, I also enjoy it."
The art you make is very diverse in terms of subjects, themes, materials etc. Why is that? Are there things you definitely still want to do?
"I just do what I find interesting. That way, I also enjoy it. The pressure to sell is so great these days that young artists don't dare to do anything like that anymore. I'm not afraid. You have to dare to change your mind. Having 'your own style' doesn't really exist; I prefer to say I have 'my own way of working'. There are still many ideas I would like to work out, but the ideas that are stored in a drawer somewhere are those that cost a lot of money. I would prefer to concentrate on architecture, or at least ideas that are more akin to architecture. I can't really think of anything I wouldn't venture into."Many people have a strong opinion about what you do, and that's not always positive. How do you deal with that?
"That's very positive, I think. Indifference is the worst! I am also well-known with people who are not involved in art at all and I think that's important as well. Everyone can see my art, everyone at their own level. My work has different layers and I want to reach as many people as possible with it. Nobody can disapprove of my work in its entirety because there are so many different things."Which other artists are you looking at?
"I look up to many artists. Every day there’s someone else. Old art also fascinates me a lot. Everything actually. I can even admire a box of breakfast cereals. Or graffiti on the wall. Or the layout of a newspaper. There are good things in every genre and nothing is too little for me. This morning I thought of Félicien Rops: that man was a great draughtsman. It's the drawings that make it easy to see who's good and who's not. Drawings are so honest and so direct."Are you privately also involved in art? What does your personal art collection look like?
"My little personal art collection is very eclectic. It ranges from archaeological things to the latest art. But I don't want to become a slave to what I own. The last few years I've been trying to own as little as possible. It all takes time and money to keep track of everything."Being an artist, is that a job or a lifestyle?
"I can make art while sitting on my bike. Or on the train. Art is something that happens in your head."
"A new work also gives new layers of meaning to the older works."
Why the fascination for science and technology? These are often recurring elements in your work.
"Everything belongs to the world of art. Art is above all about trying out new things, and that is no different in science. New techniques and new insights will automatically result in new art. Ah, 'art' is also such an obnoxious word. I try not to think about it too much, because when you try to make 'art' you become half paralyzed and you don't dare to try new things anymore. Don't try to make 'art' in advance. Just do it and you'll see afterwards whether people think it's 'art' or not. On Youtube, you see people who just do things and they therefore do not necessarily call it 'art'."Is there an evolution in your work? Do you dare more/other things now than thirty years ago, for example?
"Maybe I see it bigger, maybe not always. I also rechew things. Above all, I want to be better. You should never be satisfied. I’m always in doubt. I still hesitate as much as I did thirty years ago."Can an artist of your status afford to do more than someone just starting out?
"Yes, I can now do things I didn't dare to do before or couldn't finance before. It's getting more and more fun. Maybe I'll play the guitar tomorrow. Who knows?"You have already built a great career with a diverse portfolio. Do you keep feeling that urge to create?
"I don't have to rush to finish a work. I can save time by showing older works while quietly working on new ones. A new work also gives new layers of meaning to the older works. You also have to be able to read between the works, as you have to read between the lines."What can visitors expect from the current exhibition in Brussels? Where does the idea of linking your work to the collection of the KMSKB come from?
"There are some new series to be seen, including marble bas-reliefs. The idea to link my works to the KMSKB collection comes mainly from the museum itself. I don't work in a 'vide'. It is mainly the works that are already there that have guided me. The works in the collection are not just background noises. I hope that the viewer will look at them with the same attention. Every time I walk around in those rooms, I see new things."