empathy

A Red Hot Date with Dirk Bell’s “Lovephabet”

Walking up to BQ on Weydingerstrasse I notice an old man peering at the poster for the Dirk Bell exhibition inside. It’s a red print featuring two lovers in a steamy embrace, and the old man’s inquisitive but shocked expression is hilarious.

Alphabet of Love

The exhibition itself isn’t quite as risqué, despite being based upon Bell’s “LOVEPHABET” alphabet, which he has been working on since 2007. The first large scale drawing on entering the exhibition has a small section of it tacked to one corner, at first glance not remarkable until you look closer and see it is the foundation for the whole show. Originating around the shape of a square, the LOVEPHABET is dotted throughout the exhibition in the form of steel structures, easily mistaken for a bookshelf at first glance.

LovephabetA close up of Dirk Bell’s “LOVEPHABET” sketches. Photo: Chris Phillips

Divided into three rooms, entering the largest I feel as though I am walking into someone’s apartment. Not of a grungy, boho teenager but his slightly more sophisticated older brother’s loft apartment, decked out in a wooden and steel décor. One corner made of breeze-blocks houses some faintly etched drawings, mythical creatures made of fusions between women and animals, one reminding me of a harpy with the head of an eagle. This motif of natural imagery runs throughout the exhibition with strategically placed feathers and drawings of birds and natural forms.

Word Play

Acting as a room divider in the largest space is a grid structure formed of the words “DENKEN” (thinking) and “ENDE” (end) in the geometric LOVEPHABET form. The two words merge into one another seamlessly, and through the piece the wooden structure or bookshelf behind is clearly visible, housing an array of knickknacks including clay hands, another motif present throughout the exhibition. Also visible are an amazing pair of geometric leather trousers which I much prefer to the focal leather piece – a long black leather jacket with a woman painted on the back, which immediately makes me think of some unfortunate similar specimens I’ve seen in the past featuring 80s pop stars.

Wandering into the adjoining rooms the focus on the human form and the LOVEPHABET continues, one featuring a wall painting based on the characters “TIME,” blurring out into alterations including the repetition of the word “Me.” Bell is famous for his immersive installation pieces and this exhibition is a great example. The only problem is that now I’ve wandered into his strange world I’m intrigued but feel as though I’ve only scratched the surface, and I still wonder what lies beneath. 

  • BQ– Dirk Bell “Schön Und Gut” – Until February 23rd 2013 – Tues-Sat: 11am – 6pm [Estimated price range of works: €200-5000]

Article by Marie J Burrows