Jean-Francois Debongnie: Beauty in the Wallflowers

Written by Rei Yukon | Posted 23 Apr 2019

Gentle, soft and swaying, Belgium artist, Debongnie’s flowers are subtle at first glance; shades and silhouettes against minimalist backgrounds with their long, reaching stalks and nimble buds. The artist’s style is simple, yet fascinating, creating a series of delicate, dreamy landscapes with his representational spots and lines as testament to one of nature’s most beautiful creations.
Self-taught and inspired by the beauty of traditional Chinese ink on paper paintings, Debongnie initially used acrylic paint in his works, before falling in love with former. The Ink he uses is applied with a pipette, and is of a particular solution that does not flake, peel, or have problems drying out after rounds of thick application. His backgrounds comprise of up to eight or nine layers of acrylic mediums, forming peculiar textural patterns with a sponge or texture paste.  

His works mainly revolve around the artistic appreciation of natural beauty, particularly the repetitive motif of his long, swaying flower clusters. This simply because he finds flowers a fascinating subject to explore. He started out with more realistic, representational forms, which through artistic exploration and innovation evolved into more abstracted, symbolic gestures of ink on paper.

Some of his works are bright, colourful and vivid, where the flowers seem to sing in joyous melody, swaying against the canvas. But sometimes Debongnie’s flowers are still, silent and solemn, moving slower, like a melancholy choir against a monochromatic scenery. What remains similar however, is the liveliness and confrontational presence of all his floral creations. While minimalistic and arguably simplified in terms of form, the flowers exude a magnetic aura, the compositional energy and remnants of the artist’s hand exhibited in the way the ink spills and blooms almost intentionally across the image.

Personally, what draws me in to Debongnie’s work is the way his flowers are all congruent in style and appearance, yet hold their own inarguable characteristics and personalities. Because each item is hand painted, they all inherently differ, despite sharing similar dispositions. There will never be two that are exactly alike. To me, his flowers symbolize humanity, tying in with Romantic ideals of mankind’s relationship with nature. His flowers attempt to exemplify the smallness of our existence in relation to the mysterious, enigmatic world around us, showcasing instances of the sublime that may otherwise go unnoticed.

The artist’s art philosophy perhaps emphasizes the subtle uniqueness and often times disregarded individuality of every member of society, where each person is a flower, standing in a crowd, seemingly blending in and irrelevant, yet positively unique, holding on to their own set of values, quirks and idiosyncrasies.  

Explorative and brilliant, Debongnie reminds us of the elegance and wonder in the kindred, where his quiet flowers stand together, moving in unison in wind-blown fields, flourishing beneath an eternal, textured sky.