There is a lot happening at the moment for Dirk Zoete (°1969, Roeselare). After years of quietly working in his studio on a coherent oeuvre, his work is popping up everywhere. Rightfully so, as he is – in our opinion at least – one of Belgium’s most undervalued artists.
His solo exhibition at Be-Part just opened, Roma Publications just came out with a new book on his work, he has another solo exhibition coming up with Berlin-based Kromus+Zink in a few months, and we are of course very excited about his recent contribution to our very own Billboard Series. We think everyone should be acquainted with his work, and so we decided to share one of the many studio visits we’ve been doing with him over the last few months.
January 2016 February 2016 March 2016
Dirk Zoete’s studio, located conveniently behind his house in the outskirts of Ghent, is a simple yet spacious pavilion heated by a wood stove. His studio is filled to the brim with small sculptures, cardboard masks, shoes made of hollowed out loafs of bread, little sketches, large drawings and trinkets; all elements he often refers to himself as Brincadeira, after the Portuguese word for ‘play’. Dirk explains: “Brincadeira is a term I picked up from a Brazilian guy who helped me out around my studio. I initially thought the term referred to ‘do it yourself’, comparable to the Dutch term ‘bricoleren’. I was wrong, but immediately felt attracted to the tension between the do-it-yourself aspect and the idea of play. I now use it as an umbrella term for all the models, decors and theater scenes I create, and all the characters I compose. But it could actually also include the photographic series I make, or the drawings, which are either based on or literally drawn on the printed photographs, the sculptures that comeout of this process; etc.”.
Dirk Zoete doesn’t differentiate between the photographs he makes of the aforementioned models, the drawings he makes on these photographs and the drawings on paper that originate from these photographs. “They are all drawings,” he says, “ for me, a photograph is as much a drawing as a lead pencil drawing on paper. They are all ways of understanding the world.”
Dirk Zoete’s practice, though theatrical, has little to do with theatre. He rather investigates how a situation can come into being, how his studio can function as a pedestal for new situations. The driving force behind his work is wonder. Zoete refers here to the legendary Belgian painter Philippe Vandenberg: “I once heard him say that in creating an image, he was principally looking for a way to create a moment of pleasure for himself. I don’t remember the exact quote, but I can really relate to that. By creating images, sculptures and model settings of things I never saw before, by adding something new to the world, I get the momentary pleasure of wonderment.”
At the same, his practice is an exercise in relating to the world. Zoete explains how at first his models were a research into scale; how all the objects – tables and beds for example – he used in his models were based on things he saw in his daily life. He would measure them, scale them down and insert them in new setting.
Lately, Dirk Zoete’s interest is shifting more towards the transformation of the materiality of objects, and this shows in the work he is currently making. He experiments, transforming masks from cardboard to veneer, or casting them in aluminum. But the core of his practice stays the same: these wooden or aluminum masks also remain building blocks in his ever-expanding personal archive, showing up in drawings, which in turn could be used as design sketches for new sculptures. Every work he makes is a starting point for a new object, waiting to come into this world.
Dirk Zoete’s solo exhibition In anticipation of improvement is on view through 29 May 2016 at Be-Part.
Waregem – BE