“Deux Bacchantes”, a bronze sculpture by the Belgian artist Wim Delvoye, represents a pair of Bacchantes – the deliriously dancing female followers of the wine god Bacchus in classical mythology, always shown in a state of ecstatic frenzy and intoxication. Bacchantes are a common subject in art history, particularly in 18th- and 19th-century European sculpture. But these Bacchantes are oddly different: Delvoye has scanned a photograph of a sculpture he found on the internet and digitally manipulated it in order to stretch the figures to the limit.
The work forms part of Delvoye’s series of twisted sculptures. His idea is to reinterpret the long tradition of contraposto sculpture, with the body in an S-line, to distort and twist the figures so they seem to move between two and three dimensions before the viewers’ eyes. The drapes and textiles enable the artist to make what he calls a “visual hurricane”, with the figures whirling in a vortex that looks like it might take off from its solid, static pedestal. “What I like about sculptures is that you are forced to go around them, to look at all of them, to use your eyes and your body to understand them,” says the artist.
A neo-conceptual artist, Delvoye appropriates and distorts art historical styles and motifs to reinterpret common yet rather unconventional objects, thereby combining philosophical ideas, a fresh use of materials and a love for craftsmanship.
Internationally famous for his stained-glass soccer goalie nets and Cloaca digestive tract machines that turn food into excrement in the gallery, Delvoye became a part-time resident of China in 2004 in order to rent a farm to tattoo live pigs. Delvoye was not interested in their meat – he is a vegetarian – but rather in tattoing them with emblems such as Louis Vuitton logos and Disney princesses in order to question the commodification of art.
Constantly juxtaposing opposites, such as the sacred and the profane, the historic and the modern, or the local and the global, he irreverently confronts various myths that feed contemporary society, from religion, science, to capitalism. Whether he twists the inkblots of Rorschach psychological tests into sleek bronze idols, or cement trucks into refined, laser-cut neo-gothic cathedrals, most of his works combine high tech methods with expert craftsmanship.