Boris Tellegen is always working on something. Or rather, he is always working on several projects at the same time. Nevertheless, here he is in his studio drawing a sine wave in the air with his index finger and stopping at the bottom of this imaginary graph. ‘Right now, I’m somewhere here,’ he says. ‘I’m asking myself what in God’s name I can think of next. Nothing may come up for a little while, but then it’ll start again with some new idea that I can expand upon for a time.’ 

Expanding upon previous ideas, reinventing concepts and exploring possible shapes and angles all go to the heart of Tellegen’s art. From throwing up tags and pieces as a teenager in Amsterdam in the 1980s, to revolutionizing abstract 3D lettering in the 1990s and establishing himself as fine artist in the 21st century, creating objects that mary vary in shape, color and purpose, but are invariably recognizable as the work of DELTA.

Immediate impact

Imagine the surprise on Ruyzdael designer Ferry’s face when, while fare-dodging on the Amsterdam-Rotterdam InterCity train as a young graffiti vandal, a stranger several years older than him walks up, asks him to hand over his marker (‘What marker?’ ‘I saw you, just give it to me’) and proceeds to write DELTA on the inside of the train before getting off at the next stop. That was over thirty years ago and after reconnecting a few years on, the two have been friends and occasional collaborators ever since. 

‘I think Ferry is very good at getting at the core of what something is about, bringing that out visually and expressing the kind of attitude that fits with his person,’ says Boris. ‘It’s very hip-hop! His work has an immediate impact. I think what we have is common is that our stuff needs to be clear about what it is from the start. There is always a background story, but it’s all about what’s in front of you.’ 


Boris is the first to de-emphasize his reliance on skill and technique, and believes his talent lies more in making conceptual connections and associations (‘Oh wait, this, but then connected to that, and then, hold on, you get that, which could be interesting’). ‘I’ve noticed that I started circling back in the last few years. Doing things I already did ten years ago, trying to see if there are sidetracks that I’ve left unexplored. Mind you, it’s also because I enjoy doing them. Like letters, which have come back after I got away from them for a long time. I like drawing letters! I had stopped doing T-shirts over ten years ago, but they have also come back, they’re fun. I mean, I only did these Ruyzdael shirts because of Ferry, but... I like that I’ve been able to connect them to these workout sessions that I’ve had.’ 

It turns out that, for years, Boris has been going to a nearby freight train terminal to paint on brown coal containers near a local power station. Using only white paint coating and black outlines, he adorns the containers with lifesize versions of the sketches he makes in one of his little black books. The sketches are endless variations on previous drawings, attempts to find ‘an opening to another little universe’. Boris describes these workout sessions as his way of ‘staying in shape’ and, even though it has also become a kind of work over the years, he still regards it as a lot of fun (‘an optical game that I like to play’) and enthuses about modern phones’ ability to make great pictures in the dark. 


The Ruyzdael-DELTA shirts are a spin-off of this project, which he started in 2011. With the exception of one logo shirt, all the designs feature details from the hundreds of photographs from the project. One T-shirt in particular shows three different versions of the same design: one from Boris’ sketchbook, from one of the container trains, and a further abstraction done at his computer. His current plan is to transform a number of the sketches into primary toy colored 3D figures, but he’s not quite sure yet how he wants to approach them. One of these days, undoubtedly, it will come to him. And you can bet that idea will spark another one that will keep DELTA’s creative engine running for some time.

Order here.

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