Dirk Zoete – The Cactus Derivatives

This new body of work by Dirk Zoete has particularly seduced me, as the vegetal world—and flowers in particular—appeals to me a lot. It delights me to bundle this work in a FIFTY ONE Publication.

Dirk has created these imaginary botanical creatures that he clusters into ‘cactus derivatives.’ One can discern characters, phalluses, female genitals, fairground amusements, and so much more in these genuine shapes, depending on one’s mindset. Or could we read them as his own ‘fleurs du mal’?

This series of drawings is undoubtedly related to Dirk’s previous series and subjects. References to his great iconography found in his human and animal figures and masks, be it in photographs, sculptures, or drawings, are unmistakable. Those striking lines, his sense of humour, the Bauhaus and constructivist wink, they all play a role in this delicate ‘drawn herbarium.’

Time seems to stand still; herbaria are supposed to keep track of something that might, and mostly does, fade—but then, which time?
A passed time? A future time that will never be? Or the time of our (in)capability of dreaming flora? A Jurassic utopia? This publication has indications of a kind of logbook, taking over the same role.

Unsolicited, Karl Blossfeldt comes to mind; he too created an inventory of forms and vegetal structures, except that his were real ones. Joan Fontcuberta comes along in our mind games too.

An exquisite fragility emanates from this mental flora turned into delicate drawings. That refinement and seeming simplicity with a necessary contrarian character is what makes Dirk Zoete’s work so irresistible to me—as that intriguing flower that floats by only in a dream, and now in this book.

Roger Szmulewicz, March 2020