Twee Delftse Butaangasflessen [Two Delft Blue Butane Containers]

Wim Delvoye


Sculpture, 58 x 30 cm.
Materials: butane bottles, enamel paint

Collection: Collection M HKA, Antwerp (Inv. no. BK5588).

Wim Delvoye’s sculptures enchant us by their accessibility and conviviality. That holds as well for these Two Delft Blue Butane Containers, painted in Delft motifs. The windmills and landscapes are typical of Dutch home-, garden- and kitchen style. These gas containers are formally quite logical, but not contentually. The Delft part is a vase; on the other hand, the butane container is a gross, dangerous thing. So here we have cosiness and domesticity combined with danger and aggression. As a viewer, one now becomes even more aware of the fragility of the porcelain and the raw, industrial character of the gas container. Nonetheless, it all seems so natural. The everyday utilitarian object and the decoration meld into a new whole. The banal and the elevated take each other’s form and become mutually exchangeable.

In his objects these two worlds tilt into each other without cancelling one another out. This is what makes for a strong image, and an interchange between the iconography and the support is created. Delvoye’s art studies the relationship that exists between the image and its material support. At first, the gas container seems like the support for the painting, but the painting is also a support for the container. Delvoye’s decoration is so subversive because it pops-up precisely where we least expect it. Once you’ve seen Delvoye’s gas containers, you can never again look at a ‘regular’ example without having thoughts turn to a Delft vase.

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