Dries Talks
W/ Bosco Sodi
Antwerp, 2023

[What does freedom mean to you?]

Freedom is the ability to express oneself without fright or limitation. It is the ability to create, explore, and take risks without fear of judgement or consequence. Freedom is an essential part of the human experience and something we should all strive for.

[You are especially known for your richly textured, vividly coloured large-scale paintings and the emotive power you seek within the essential crudeness of the materials that you use to execute your paintings. Also, you leave many of them untitled. What is the meaning you want to be seen in your artwork?]

With my work, I want to evoke feelings of emotional and spiritual connection with the natural world; I seek to create works that induce feelings of awe, wonder, and contemplation, while I also explore themes of fragility, impermanence and the beauty of imperfection.

[What are your favourite materials to work with?]

The materials I work with inspire me a deep appreciation. Clay is my favourite, because of its malleability and its ability to capture the energy of my hands in its form. I love the immediacy of the material, as well as the way it can embody the passage of time and the tactile traces of my actions.

I also enjoy working with natural pigments, which I mix with sawdust to bring colour and texture to my works. Each material has its own unique qualities and I seek to use them to their fullest potential.

[Which other artists inspire your work?]

I draw inspiration from a variety of artists, writers, and thinkers, including Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Paul Klee, Antoni Tàpies, Robert Rauschenberg, and Mark Rothko. I’m also inspired by the works of Alberto Giacometti, as well as writers such as Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel García Márquez, and Octavio Paz.

All these influences have helped shape my understanding of the world and my art.

[A couple of years ago, you initiated Casa Wabi, an art centre in Oaxaca, in your mother country Mexico. Could you resume the project? And why is it called Casa Wabi?]

Casa Wabi is named after ‘Wabi Sabi’, a Japanese aesthetic philosophy that celebrates imperfection, impermanence, and the acceptance of natural cycles. It emphasizes the beauty of things that are simple, unfinished and imperfect, so it encourages us to appreciate the beauty of objects and moments that are fleeting and transient.
I initiated Casa Wabi in 2014, to create an inclusive and collaborative space where local and international artists, architects and designers can come together to share ideas and create art.

The project also serves to promote the culture and traditions of the local community, but also aims to create opportunities for education and cultural exchange.

Casa Wabi has been an important source of inspiration for my artistic creation, as it has allowed me to connect with different cultures and to explore new and innovative ideas. Additionally, it has provided me with the opportunity to collaborate with other artists and to gain valuable insight into different artistic perspectives.

[Another project of yours, ‘Assembly’, is installed in an old garage in New York. What do you want to achieve with this space?]

Assembly is an art space, a way to show works that otherwise would be hidden in storages or boxes; Admission is free, for the benefit of the community.

[You explained that you also want to open a restaurant there, to make sure it becomes a destination.]

Yes, in the future I want to be able to have a restaurant there to offer visitors also a culinary experience, on top of the artistic one.

[Talking about food. In one of the latest Wallpaper Issues, you shared a recipe for Brussels sprouts. It’s funny you’re familiar with this vegetable.]

Food is extremely important to me, because I believe it to be a powerful form of expression. The act of cooking and sharing meals can be a form of joint joy and nourishment. The Brussels sprouts recipe in Wallpaper was the result of a day of cooking with my kids: we were experimenting and having fun with the art of cooking.

[At the Biennale in Venice visitors were allowed to take each one of the clay spheres composing your work home. Why?]

I wanted to emphasize the idea of shared experience. By taking home a piece of the artwork, people have a physical reminder of the collective experience, which is something that I believe is important.

[In Belgium you’re represented by Axel Vervoordt’s gallery; you had an exhibition there last year. What will be next?]

Currently, I’m working on a few different projects. In Belgium, I’m preparing for an exhibition at Axel Vervoordt’s gallery next March, which will feature a series of Sack paintings … and in March I’ll be exhibiting a series of clay spheres at the Harvard Museum, then in September in my galleries in Tokyo and New York.

[On social media, you can find messages like ‘Earth without art would just be ‘eh’. It seems obvious art is an essential component in our lives as human beings. What role should and could it play in our contemporary society and environment?]

I believe art should be an integral part of our contemporary society and environment. Art has the power to open our minds to new perspectives, inspire us to think outside the box, and foster creativity and innovation. Art can act as a bridge between cultures, helping us to understand each other better, and establish a dialogue, and build strong relationships.

Let’s not forget art also can be a tool to raise awareness about important issues, both local and global, and to inspire positive change. Finally, art can be an avenue for healing, providing an outlet to express our emotions and feelings in ways that words often can’t.

[And does art have to be beautiful? How important are beauty and appearance to you?]

Beauty is a highly subjective concept, and for me, art does not have to be beautiful to be meaningful. I believe that art should evoke an emotional reaction in the viewer: from that point of view, it can be beautiful or ugly, depending on their interpretation. Appearance can be important, but it should not be the only factor when considering the value of a piece of art. I try to create work that is meaningful, regardless of its physical beauty.
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