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Eli Delbaere (they/he)
BIO: Eli’s paintings aim to open a portal to the ambiguous realm between fact and fantasy. Making use of found objects, their play-oriented practice references the childhood belief in animism: the hidden slumbering spirit within all things. They create shrine-like installations which borrow from fairytales, mythology, folklore, psychoanalysis, and the visual language of the sacred – repurposed for the contemporary world. Portraying genderless, animalistic creatures, the fragmentary nature of the bodies and beings they show can at once call to the poetic, incomplete beauty of classical statues, and mirror the complex, violent and noble way we all come to terms with our own flesh and blood. They believe in breaking down the archaic elitism surrounding art, that art is by and for everybody, and can be made out of anything.
FROM THE ARTIST: ‘Having evolved out of a painful, emotionally charged relationship, this painting is a raw statement on the kinetic experience of the body and represents something simultaneously attractive and threatening, dangerous and alluring. The technique is spiky and wild, yet many viewers have found it to resonate with them as a beautiful, affirming depiction of a transgender body. The title ‘Invert’ at once refers to the inverted colours of the image and to an anachronistic descriptor for queer sexuality, perhaps subverting this into a joyful context.’
FROM THE ARTIST: ‘This piece was inspired by research into the neurobiology of the transgender experience. I read an amazing study about the effects of hormone therapy (specifically testosterone administered to transgender men) on the human brain, which definitely sparked feelings of queer joy for me – it was incredible to learn that this
transformative process that I’m choosing autonomously to undergo is literally changing who I am from within down to the deepest level. What felt even more empowering was learning that prior to starting HRT, brain imaging scans show that transgender people often have brains which don’t conform to either typical male or female brains, but
instead resemble a kind of neurological third gender. That to me summarised queer euphoria – to know that for everyone who argues transness is just a phase or a fad or even a mental illness, it’s actually a perceptible presence in your chemistry, your very DNA.Visually my artwork grew from the scans of transmen’s brains in this study. I saw so many forms within them – butterflies’ wings, a crown of thorns, antlers, lights aglow in the darkness. This allowed the artwork to make itself, evolving organically as one image or association led into another. It became a type of self-portrait where I decided to paint a version of my inner mind, enveloping, surrounding and immersing the viewer through its large scale into a world of imagery relating to my personal experience of transmasculinity. Thus there are syringes, body parts, and abstracted, spiky forms, which intend to evoke the thorniness of navigating a loving relationship with your body as a genderqueer person in a transphobic world. I hope to cause onlookers to reflect on both the joy and the horror of that journey through this piece. ‘