Jean-Francois Debongnie, born 1968, is a native of Brussels and has spent close to two decades in Asia. Since 1989, Jean-Francois has been residing in Singapore and initially eked out his living as a photographer, specializing in black and white photography. However, painting has always been a first love for him and a life-changing trip to Vietnam in 1990 made him pick up the brush again (he has not stopped painting since.)
The art of Jean-Francois Debongnie, like the man himself, bridges two worlds. This is not so much a gradual process of acclimatisation and cultural assimilation as the realisation of an almost intuitive empathy for Asia, which he had nurtured since childhood.
As far as his actual painting methods are concerned, Jean-Francois always works on the floor of his studio. He never makes preparatory sketches; the whole process is rather spontaneous. Jean-Francois simply spreads the canvas on the floor and then works on his knees, rather like one of the New York Action painters in the 1950s - Jackson Pollack or William de Kooning. Only after the painting is complete does Jean-Francois transfer the canvas to a stretcher.
A self-taught artist, Jean-Francois initially used acrylic paint in his works, before falling in love with the medium of Chinese ink. The Chinese ink he uses is applied with a pipette and is a special type of ink that does not flake after a thick application dries. He has always painted on the floor, on his knees, with his canvas spread on the ground. His backgrounds comprises up to eight or nine layers of acrylic and sometimes, to add interesting patterns, he uses a sponge or texture paste.
His works explore flowers in various forms of representation, simply because he finds flowers a fascinating subject to explore. He started out with representational flowers and this has evolved into more abstract representations. Throughout the evolution of the floral representations, their overall impression has been one of movement where the fluid stems of the flowers give the impression that the flowers are dancing on the canvas in a celebration of life. His works are at once vibrant and contemporary, with a cosmopolitan feel that would enliven any living space.
"It's all just playing with water and ink", Jean-Francois modestly professes, but of course it's a lot more than just that. His paintings are all about subtleties - he has painted the same theme over and over again and it is in the subtle nuances that his art lies.