In an exhibition catalogue, Dirk Balke claims a bit ironically that he has been an “oil painter” since his seventh year of life, because that was when he got his first oil-based paints. However, he started out on the traditional path of studying art at a rather late date. He got a degree at the Neue Kunstakademie Rhein/Ruhr art academy in Essen and Krefeld from 2000 to 2004. Since then, he has been working as a freelance artist, first for a few years in Vienna, then in Düsseldorf, where he is quite an active member of the cultural organisation “Kultur im Hafen”. Whilst his art first tended towards informal abstraction, his more recent works are more representational, even at times hyperrealistic. It is the tension between these two supposed opposites that interests him. Balke’s sculptures are also marked by a direct meeting of opposites: the shrouded, mummy-like figure with its defensive mouflon horn and gas mask oscillates between strength and vulnerability and it is no different when Balke summarily replaces a legendary hero armoured in dragon’s blood with one that actually consists of soft wine gum – so Balke the artist makes jokes, engaging in satire and irony with a deeper significance.