Amie Dicke unveils ‘Sucking Stones’

Artistic instinct, anonymity and 400 pots of make-up come alive.

Amie Dicke, Thirty eight and a half (vintage book with nails, 2016)

Adding to its notable track record, art center Looiersgracht 60 currently presents Amie Dicke, supplying—in the artist’s usual fashion—a tactile and thought-provoking show. Creating work from an innate artistic urge, Dicke relies on “instinct over intuition”, appreciating serendipity in art and recognizing that often, unintentional things turn out the most successful. Fascinated by the presence of touch, she presents both the finished product and the process of her site-specific installation, deeming one as beautiful as the other. Expect to gaze at books covered in face powder, distorted photographs and striking sculptures. With copious amounts of skin colour trailing through the exhibit, the artist transforms the cold white space into a warm and welcoming experience.

Over the last 16 years you’ve been exhibiting work in the biggest capital cities of the world. Which has been your favourite to exhibit in?

I can’t pick a favourite! A city does affect the way I create work; it’s very different if you’re in China or America because you have a different cultural focus. There’s a different way of dealing with art; I’m very Western and museums in America are very American, but there is still a very ‘white cube’ way of approaching things—I’m not sure if I like that so much. I can’t choose a favourite as I don’t work in those borders and frames. Much like my work, I always try to open up images.

A lot of your work seems to be focused on the idea of texture and the materials being used, whether the surface is layered, ripped, partially destroyed or a 3D entity in itself. What is it that draws you to the tactile aspect of art?

Well, you question it in a way that presents my work as coming from the tactile experience of art, but I don’t think in those kinds of terms. The word ‘art’ is something I hardly use, for me the tactility is more a way of seeing, of being in touch with it—it’s a curiosity. To be curious is an essential way of dealing with your environment, and touch is a very wonderful instinctive reaction to your surroundings.

Can you tell us a bit about your exhibition, Sucking Stones, at Looiersgracht 60?

It’s a mix of new and old work. For example, the poster image is a piece of work I began working on ten years ago, but it never felt quite ready. I really love those moments, when it suddenly comes to you. It’s always there but it’s just about a way of recognizing it—recognition and attention are two very important words. I use a lot of existing imagery, books, and private photos. But an existing image can also be the space, an object. I walked around this space a lot and it felt very sculptural, so I started to play around with powdering my books with nude make-up in my studio. I thought it would be great to have more of this flesh tone around the space, as all the images left on the walls are very blue, so it has quite a cold feel to it, especially when the space is empty.

Amie Dicke, Closed Eyes (a selection of books and magazines from the private collection of the artist, with make-up powder in a variety of nude tones, temporary installation at Looiersgracht 60, 2016)

Amie Dicke, Closed Eyes (a selection of books and magazines from the private collection of the artist, with make-up powder in a variety of nude tones, temporary installation at Looiersgracht 60, 2016)

Part of the exhibition includes books covered in powder. How many pots of make-up did you need to complete this sculpture?

A lot of powder: 400 pots! You can see the table I used to cover them downstairs in the exhibition—I’m playing with the idea of making and unmaking, and I like that you can see the whole process. A lot of the things we do unintentionally turn out to be the most beautiful, and I thought this table with all the remains and outlines of the books worked really beautifully.

Some of your work follows the recurring theme of using sandpaper to remove elements such as faces and expressions, making is harder for the viewer to relate to the subject. Can you please elaborate on this?

The moment a face looks at you, you are immediately only reading that, so we are reading each other because we need to—that is communication. In magazines, for instance, you immediately start to do face recognition. I am trying to find ways of getting around that, exploring different ways of approaching an image. When a face is visible, you immediately question: how is someone looking? Are they good looking? Do I feel recognition? A certain anonymity gives us the possibility to fill in, so this image can be a lot more applicable for other people, while otherwise it would just be one story about one person. I like that you can fill in the image with your own imagination; it’s open to interpretation. The work becomes anonymous and it gives the viewer much more of an opportunity to become a part of it.

Amie Dicke, Closed Eyes (a selection of books and magazines from the private collection of the artist, with make-up powder in a variety of nude tones, temporary installation at Looiersgracht 60, 2016)

 When you are re-appropriating other photographs for your work, what are you looking for in an image and how do you source them?

 It just happens, your hand tells you. You already open the book and tear out the page, and that’s the decision made. It goes so quickly, but that doesn’t mean it becomes work, or good work. We read images so quickly; it’s instinct, much more instinct than intuition.

 Where did the title Sucking Stones come from?

 I was powdering one of my books in the studio and one of the make-up balls cleared a space over the text. I leaned over and it said ‘stones’. I thought it was so nice that it felt a bit like a landscape and a crater, and I pushed the make-up ball a bit further. Then I read ‘sucking stones’ and thought it sounded really good. The two words are very different, as ‘sucking’ is very hard and ‘stones’ sounds very soft to me. My association was immediately the inability to speak, and I kind of liked that feeling, as well as the associations coming with the words. Often with these things, you just know when something is right. The title was always there, I just hadn’t read it before.


Words by Lottie Hodson

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