When one first sees the work of Paul de Delve one is struck by the power and expressiveness inherent in the human body. Emotions both overt and subtle are communicated to the viewer through a range of images which together make up the complex whole of the human condition. This photographer is clearly developing the themes which interested Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, Bill Brandt and Ralph Gibson. However an older artistic tradition becomes apparent, an echo of past masters who pushed their skills to the limit. A photographer "draws with light" but that light, applied in a variety of techniques, does not limit but expands the potential artistic vision. Paul de Delve's nudes provoke a range of comparisons. Some have the cool, contemplative attitude of Donatello's David or the fire and tension of Leonardo's studies for battle scenes.
Paul de Delve's nudes are at one with the landscape, melding into the organic, sinuous forms of trees and rocks. There is a hushed quality, a calm, timelessness which is both soothing and disturbing. A veiled woman in a pose which is both provocative and unapproachable resonates with nineteenth century mourning figures in cemeteries. A male nude with the tranquillity but expectancy of St. Sebastian.
The images of this photographer show a strong interest and understanding of technique. Through solarisation, cyanotype and gum prints different aspects of the image are emphasised or played down. Texture, contrast and clarity are manipulated to create a unique image - truly unique since no records of the creative process are kept.
There are two techniques which produce particularly striking results. The multiple exposure, where one image is laid onto another, stimulate the viewer to piece together a series of events, a narrative hidden in the image, like memories of the past stored in roughly finished walls. Ghosts of pleasure and pain.
Paul de Delve's gum prints create images that have a truly painterly quality. At first glance they appear to be pastel drawings, using a muted pallet of soft blue, terracotta and grey on a rough paper. ln fact they are images created through a complex series of processes which result in a softness reminiscent of a Degas pastel. These images have a poignancy calling to mind faded renaissance frescoes, ruined beauties of the past.
Paul de Delve is a photographer who creates images which are at once passionate and dramatic. These timeless and tranquil dreamscapes effect the viewer on many levels, stimulating one to recognise both the strength and the vulnerability of the human body.
© Deborah James - Art Historian, 1998.
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