Jan Dibbets

(b. 1941, Weert, lives and work in Amsterdam and Tuscany)

Jan Dibbets emerged in the 1960s during an extremely important and influential period in the rethinking of artistic production. He trained to be a painter, but turned to photography in the late 1960s producing works in which he played with the perception of reality and the portrayal of space and structures. His experiments with conceptual variables of optics often resulted in richly paradoxical photographs dealing with the nature of illusion and reality.

In 1967 Dibbets made contact with his contemporaries who were working with landscape and this led him to produce sculptural interventions out in the environs of the Netherlands. What gave his work an altogether new twist and resonance was his decision to work with architecture, which extended both his subject matter and the perceptive capacity of his work. Another important aspect of Dibbets work is his fascination with the relationship between movement, light and time. During the 70s he produced a series of works in which the notion of time is made visible as the movement of light.

Using photography as an analytical tool, Dibbets developed new ways of understanding visual phenomena. For example in his series entitled Colorstudy C1, C2, C3, C4 (1976), in which he photographed doors and cars around his Amsterdam studio, he focused on the objects’ surfaces. Dibbets does not hide the subject matter of his photographs, yet only allows the occasional telltale strip of metal, outline of a door, or a bit of window to hint at their content. While the use of man-made structures, ubiquitous in modern life, emphasizes his interest in production and technology, Dibbets turns these everyday structures into objects of personal expression. If one looks closely, his materials, while singular in their reflective and tonal qualities, offer another perspective on the world. One can find reflected images mixed up with irregularities such as dirt and dust scattered in expanses of color. Without knowing exactly what many of the photographed reflections are from, Dibbets invites us to look, guess and interpret as if our own reflection will appear among the rest if only we gaze for long enough. By inviting the viewer to see just as himself, Dibbets plays with the binary opposition between illusion and reality. Hence, his work becomes a radical abstraction of an image, so far as it materializes the possible coincidence with a distant, enigmatic and enormously pleasurable color.