Placed at prominent positions in CapitaMalls Asia’s newly opened Westgate in Jurong are three charming sculptures by Belgium artist Dirk De Keyzer. They are all centred on the subject matter of the human being, and at least one, if not all of them, will make your heart beat faster when you gaze upon it – if you can identify with what the figure is doing.
The figure is a slim woman dressed in a spaghetti top and a pair of tight pants, and she is walking barefoot on a tight rope above a reflective pond. She has nothing to help her balance except her own limbs, and is in a most challenging position. Our hearts beat faster if we imagine ourselves in her shoes - even though she had none on, for we are not sure whether the next step we take will still lend us standing erect on the rope. We are not just spectators; we too are tightrope walkers in life’s various situations and need to execute our balancing acts well.
The Art of Life
Here lies the uniqueness of De Keyzer’s sculptures - their ability to engage and move the viewers deeply. Indeed it is the artist’s aim to invite the viewers into his world and have conversations with him. The artworks are snapshots of his world, and the intended conversations focus not always on the goal but on the process.
Born in 1958, De Keyzer was initially sent by his family to learn a craft and seemed destined to go to work in a factory, but this was not meant to be. Instead, he ended up studying art at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Eeklo, and since 1985 has been a professional sculptor.
De Keyzer was fascinated by French sculptor Auguste Rodin and Belgium sculptors George Minne and Constantin Meunier, but he managed to move away from the classical idiom and developed his own language in sculpting, not linked to any trends or movements. He discovered his predilection for bronze while in the Academy and it gradually became the only medium of his sculptures.
For De Keyzer, the most important source of inspiration is no less than life itself, and his sees his figures as belonging to all cultures or none at all. In terms of expression, one important aspect is humour - in part achieved by his distortion of the human figures such that they take on a feel of caricature. And he strongly believes that humour rather than negativity is a mightier tool in the battle against the downside of our modern society.
The Humour in Life
Besides The Tightrope Walker (originally titled in French as La Funambule ), you can also see The Walk ( La Promenade ) and The Loudspeaker ( Le Haut Parleur ) at Westgate, all thoughtfully positioned by the CapitaMalls Asia project team in the courtyards: The Tightrope Walker on a water body; The Walk amid planting beds; and The Loudspeaker in the square.
The Walk features a woman in a rather stiff posture being led by her sprightly dog during her walk. We may wonder: do we sometimes love our pets so much that they drive our lives? And what exactly are our “pets”? The Loudspeaker features a man with exaggerated facial features standing on top of a ladder, speaking through a big loudspeaker. We may wonder: just how often do we want to make ourselves heard, and what sort of message do we want to convey? Or we may put ourselves in the position of an audience eagerly waiting for someone high up to make an announcement; we can surely hear the sound of our pulsating hearts.
In these various ways, De Keyzer’s work truly engages the viewers. Why? Because the artist understands life with a sense of humour and shows the love of life in his works – L'Amour de la vie!
This article is contributed by CapitaLand Chief of Art Management, Francis Wong Hooe Wai