Thierry De Cordier

Oudenaarde Belgium 1954, lives and works in Ostend

Thierry De Cordier has made it his main concern to ‘contradict the world’ – not out of stubbornness or arrogance (though he has found many ‘lies’) but as an experiment, in order to see where it will take him. In old-fashioned handwriting, he has written that he is romantic and melancholy, and he has called himself a weary philosopher and inventor of effective systems for the discovery of happiness. In a certain sense, his drawings, writings and sculptures are messages to himself: admonitions, introspections, relativizations, intended to improve his understanding of himself and others. His sculptures, which are usually made of meagre, discarded materials, express the shortcomings of human existence, but also austerity, morality and human dignity.

For almost a decade (from 1976 to 1985) De Cordier refrained from adding more art objects to this overcrowded world. In order to go about his work in spite of this, he decided to give everyday functions to the lost inner space of his large sculptures; this space would become, for instance, a place for cultivating mushrooms, a wine reservoir, a drying room for herbs, a scriptorium, a waste container, almost anything. A less everyday function seems to have been given to Field studio (observatory for the study of landscape) from 1995. Written in French are the words: ‘In this I prepare myself to leave this century roaring with laughter.’ The primitive-looking sculpture could indeed, with a bit of effort, provide a place to someone who, hunched over, watches the outside world through the black pane of glass. Complete isolation from the outside world is not required for this: an antenna on the roof is ready to receive messages from beyond. And the door by which the bizarre cubicle is shut looks back, as it were, at the outside world; two small mirrors and a makeshift lock form a face.

De Cordier prefers to live as far away as possible from the art world that he loathes so much, determined to conjure up the world from his backyard and to practice gardening. He tells about how, as a child, he already had the blind urge to go away all the time: wandering about in his parents’ garden with a heavy knapsack, putting up – and then taking down and moving – tents that he made himself. ‘Today nothing has changed. In a sense I have once again more or less locked myself away in a garden, and I stay home the way a sick person stays in bed... I do not go far... I vanish into my head... lose it...’

The works in which De Cordier creates an image of himself hover between speech and silence, between knowing and forgetting. Moi (Me), from 1991, is a small, hunched stick-figure without features and with a head from which some hairs and twigs are growing. A similar self-portrait is part of De Pont’s collection but, at the request of the artist, is not to be photographed. The title, a,a,a..., alludes to stammering, to the powerlessness of directing words at us. With this strange image De Cordier attempts, as in all of his other works, to portray his complicated relationship to the world, the conflict between philanthropy and misanthropy, between the will to speak and the need to be alone.