Delphine Pouillé commenced her residency at the RAVI with the need to produce pieces of work to respond to an invitation to participate in an exhibition in Alsace, on the theme of water1. “It is a complicated subject,” she explains. “It fosters demonstrability. I worked on an installation entitled Swimmers which is made up of two swimmers that resemble geo-fossils” 2. This does not mean that it is an ad hoc creation. Swimmers is an integral part of the artist’s research, which aims to preserve the spontaneity of small, simple, uncluttered and freely executed drawings, with no intention of obtaining a “finished” object. The production process is tailor-made: the drawings are first scanned; sometimes revised, but not much; Delphine Pouillé then turns them into sketches; in this instance, she enlarges them before transferring them onto a fabric on whose surface she sprays polyurethane foam squashed by the pressure exerted via a large board. There are fruitful contradictions: the expansive nature of this unruly material is thwarted, giving rise to uncontrollable effects of overflow and a surface which is animated by sinuous folds. It is another piece of work created at the RAVI in which her hand can be recognised and which clearly shows this trait: the material seems to be pushed to its limits. There are also questions that recur in the work of Delphine Pouillé with the regularity of a leitmotif: they affect the options of display, conservation or pertinence of the relationship between the form and physical characteristics (such as density, opacity, elasticity, etc.) of the works.

But the strongest thread is undoubtedly the interest in the human body, that of the “beast for which you might get a taste”. This can be seen in the large installation that stands in the middle of the studio. Cut from elastomeric foam similar to the material used for gymnastics mats, it shows to the beholder a figure with oversized legs, pulling up like on a high bar exercise. It is big - 12 metres – to fit the studio’s dimensions and is attached to the metal roof-frame structure in keeping with the artist's desire to exploit what is there, what is immediate. The graphic dimension stands out clearly. In addition, the piece is simply held in place by drawing clips and floats in space with the lightness of a sheet of paper. Once again, Delphine Pouillé exploits the semantic richness of oppositions: confrontation of common acceptance of a high tension physical effort with the sensitivity of a soft installation like a slumped body in a moment of wallowing; the contrast between the shape of a frail silhouette that appears like a negative and the presence of an athletic figure that we see if we fix our gaze on the fullness of this black and opaque material that undulates like the muscle mass of a gymnast in action. It is also a corpse, a skin similar to that shed by an anaconda seen during a visit to the Institute of Zoology in Liege; it is indeed a question of “a beast not to be touched”.

“The body is a central and founding element for me,” explains Delphine Pouillé. “I often fragment it. This theme was notably present in my research during a residency in Korea, three years ago. I took an interest in physical training devices located in the city, outside, which are very common in the Far East. These machines appeared to me as ‘ready to use’ large urban sculptures. I do not impose a discourse. But for me, and perhaps in spite of myself, working with the body means talking about society, talking about what we are and what others are”.3

1. L’eau qui porte, Wattwiller, from 16th to 30th August 2020.

2. Interview with Delphine Pouillé, Liège, 21st September 2020.

3. Idem.

Pierre Henrion, Don’t Touch the Beast, You Might Get a Taste for It, text written as part of the RAVI’s Open Studio, Liège (BE), 2020