Delphine Lucielle


March 29, 2013

In conversation, the French-born and California-based artist Delphine Lucielle assembles her vocabulary from multiple disciplines—geology, chemistry, material science, weaving, printmaking—with easy familiarity. To create the body of work to be exhibited at the Saatchi Gallery titled “The Creation,” Lucielle called on the expertise of miners, geologists, engineers, and veteran knitters, to augment her self-acquired understanding of manipulating silica in its various forms: metals, minerals, and borosilicate glass. Though glass is the primary medium in these works, Lucielle declines to consider herself a glass artist, but instead a painter and sculptor who works in multiple mediums. Her materials, she explained, were selected for their ability to describe and mimic the purity of her subject. She successfully merges art and science, applying freshness to tradition with her innovative processes.


The works in this exhibition borrow their images and inspiration from Lucielle’s obsession with rocks and her desire to see inside the stones. This passion led her to examine very thin slices of stones through a high power microscope to extract their imagery, which she then renders on a “glass canvas,” imitating the luminescence and crystal structure of minerals. In developing her glass canvases, Lucielle chose to use super-heated silica sand, which is the same material as the rock itself. The result is that each work is imbued with a kinetic, almost liquid quality on the painting’s outer surface (which Lucielle says is meant to evoke liquid, molten rock) while also managing to create a three dimensionality in the painting lower layers that engages the viewer in an active process of discovery. Lucielle likes to say that her paintings are four billion years in the making, an interpretation of Earth’s oldest creations, taking people on a journey to places they have never seen before.


The lightness in weight and luminescence of these works belie the grueling undertakings of their creation. Each sculptural glass painting is the product of a meld of techniques: photomicrography, serigraphy with minerals, and weaving with glass. Sometimes Lucielle uses a free-form knitting of glass threads to trap colored glass chips between the stitches, that are then melted together at very high temperatures. The paintings have startling colors and textures and will not fade or change over a thousand years. In a poetic turn, Lucielle pays tribute to the longevity of  minerals by giving their representations a permanence.


A self-taught artist, Lucielle identifies the crux of her practice in the pursuit of the pure, the natural, and the elemental. Her show’s title, “The Creation,” refers in part to the artist’s discovery that scientists believe life began between layers of the rock mica. She found immediate kinship lineage of the cave painters of Lascaux, another self-taught group using mineral pigment on rock. Taking Lascaux as a starting point, Lucielle’s work also has a place within the ongoing tradition of painting, which has since become a welcoming forum for material and conceptual experimentation. Her closely-woven marriage of content and canvas calls to mind other painters whose canvases commanded meaning through form, like Frank Stella and the French artistic movement of the 1960s Supports/Surfaces. Still closer relatives are those painters who drew upon science and technology as visual sources—the importance of physics and mathematics to Wassily Kandinsky, and notions of relativity to Salvador Dalì. Delphine Lucielle’s own blend of art and science brings Earth’s hidden imagery to life. She has artistically reembodied the images of science.