Bronze horses and bulls that exude strength and vitality. An artist in search of the ultimate form. Let us take you along for an interesting dive into the life and work of animalier Jos Dirix, where a six week holiday in Finland proved to be life changing.
When he was a young man Jos Dirix (°1958) travelled to Finland with a group of friends. He gathered wood in the surrounding woods, bought a hammer and chisel and thus sculpted his first work. Supported by the positive feedback from his friends, he continued at home and also applied for a job at a bronze caster of renown. That is how he cast his first sculptures, a true learning by doing process.
After a while he left Limburg for the Art Academy in Utrecht. To explore new grounds and also to get feedback from a wider audience. Dirix: “One only believes oneself to be an artist through the recognition of others.”
But most importantly, Dirix found his passion. “I felt my energy starting to course, I could develop myself mentally. Making art is an intellectual process, whether it’s a sculpture of 5 cm or one of 2,6 metres. Being an artist is amazing, it’s hard and demanding work.”
Art starts in your head, travels to your gut and then comes out of your hands
In the beginning Dirix sculpted human forms, torsos to be exact. He found his inspiration in his sport jiujitsu, which focuses on balance and strength. Once he bought a farm in Neer in Limburg and installed his atelier in the old stables, the animals just ‘came’ to him. Dirix: “As an artist you are perhaps more sensitive to your surroundings. Big though, Icelandic horses and bulls live here. I had found my calling. I get my inspiration directly from the source. It’s something you need to feel. You need to observe how the animal moves. In the Icelandic horses I analyze their tölt, a particular way of walking. I really study my subject; what’s the anatomy, what’s the behaviour, what is their motivation? This continues until the personality of the subject starts to shine through. Every sculpture requires a new study. ‘Little Hunter’, for example, was a panther I saw during a safari in Africa. ”
My bronze sculptures are always the result of imagination, an interpretation of reality. Sculpting is exaggerating and amplifying. As an artist I want to feel the tension. A moment of life, that’s what I capture in bronze. I don’t want to make weak sculptures, but rather a powerful Jos Dirix horse.”
‘Playing’ with volumes, in search of the ultimate form
Signature for this internationally renowned animalier, are the varying sizes of his work, from 5 cm up to 2,6 metres. “The master is recognized by their measure”, he says. “A large sculpture isn’t better just because it is big. But a large, qualitative sculpture, is a sign of knowing one’s craft. Working on a larger scale is something you do to test your limits. There’s different steps to be taken in the beginning and only later you dare to attempt the larger work.
My goal as an artist is to continue my search for the ultimate form. Improving every time, taking a step ahead, especially not copying what you did before. It is a never ending process. Something you could do for the rest of your life. I never immediately part with a sculpture once it is finished. I’ll keep it around for a while, let it sink in and study it.”
What the Dutchman would like to achieve with his work? Dirix: “We artists make something beautiful. I like that people are able to soak up my work. That they recognize themselves in it, enjoy it and perhaps buy it.”