GUEST ARTIST Joke Raes (1983)
Her organic drawings, sculptures and installations seem to come about effortlessly, but a closer look reveals a dizzying level of detail: each work is crafted with great care, indicating an obsession with the surface and everything that lies beneath. Her organic imagery has the visual profusion of the rainforest, of a sprawling, serpentine nature where man is only one of hundreds of thousands of species – and yet she maintains complete control, as if she has borrowed the compound eyes of a dragonfly to keep track of its exact location even during the most nervous flight. Raes doesn’t lose her way in the labyrinthine lines of her drawings, she doesn’t seem to hesitate for a second while she glues together thousands of plastic teeth – or hooks, what are they, those little scraps of industrial material that fit seamlessly with the feathers, the kittens and the seeds? Everything is clearly structured, finished into forms that allow the viewer to construct their own story. Several formal themes can be discerned in her work, such as the imaginary line that divides an assembly or drawing into two halves or corresponding spheres. Raes often juxtaposes inside and outside; filling and encapsulating; preserving, sheltering, hiding. A prominent place is reserved for the imaginative botanical forms that she draws, lashes, models, knits and assembles. Raes’s eclectic, tactile use of materials blurs the distinction between nature and culture – the concepts are in fact mutually exclusive: in her work, man dissolves into nature, while nature disappears at man’s hands.