Well it could be somewhere ‘Through The Looking-Glass’, in the hallucinations of a fluffy acid trip, or on an as yet undiscovered dimensional plane. But nope, it’s nestled on an unassuming side-street in a cozy gallery in the heart of Friedrichshain, Berlin.
Zozoville is the zany algorithm of a quantum equation of artists Mateo Dineen and Johan Potma to be kookily precise. Sound like a load of bonkers vibrant literary nonsense? Well, that’s the only way I can even begin to describe the work, and frankly that’s how I feel when viewing these paintings populated with quirky and lovable freaks of imagination.
I met up with these gentleman artists in Onkel Zozo – their second gallery – in the Kreuzberg borough of Berlin for a chat and to get some insight into the wonderfully bizarre world of Zozoville.
Have you seen this sock?
It all began about 7 years ago when Mateo (out of San Francisco) and Johan (of the Netherlands) crossed paths (and apparently destinies) after being drawn to the artist Mecca, and circles of creative’s that is Berlin. As if twins separated at birth, they realized the uncanny resemblance of their styles immediately and resolved to join forces – so marking the birth of Zozoville and a symbiotic working relationship.
Starting small, the flea-market proved to be an ideal platform to expose their work, and even today the stand, located at Boxhagenerplatz, is a weekly installation belovedly marking the start of a good thing! Nowadays the gallery-shops of Zozoville and Onkel Zozo and the market stand draw the punters far and wide purchasing originals, prints, the annual calendar, and a recent full-color compendium called Make Believe.
In addition, both Mateo and Johan have their own studio-sanctuary in Skallywag Gallery and The Cheese Mountain Tragedy where the final draft creation usually occurs. An online-shop is also now up-and-running, as well as each of their websites, not to mention ongoing projects, international exhibits and donation work keeping them happily occupied and connected.
Want a chunk of art?
An old slat of wood, a long-forgotten attic suitcase lid, the odd cabinet door, among many others act as canvas for the color, textures and intricate detail in acrylic that form the unique Zozovillian (my own term) scenes and dearly crazy characters that come to life in their work. “Using old junk tells a story in itself – shape, scratches, stains, nail-holes”… “The issues with the material also make it a challenge…” Frames for original works are re-touched and painted; restorations in themselves, salvaged from flea-markets or found lying about. “… (the medium) is like a kind of recycling…”
For me the art is inspiring, enthralling and brings a smile whenever I try to transport myself into the scenes. “(Zozoville) is a town in our minds… where the characters live… a reflection of our world… a real world with a twist…” they explain, seemingly wondering themselves where exactly this place is: “what happens, we don’t really know… but the story unfolds with the first sketch”.
So, at least physically, Zozoville is in Berlin: a seemingly perfect place for Johan and Mateo from day one, where the lifestyle, attitude and quality of living has helped form a kind of greenhouse, instrumental in the growth of the hairy, rusty, and squelchy denizens and the ongoing story that pours out of the minds of this dynamic duo!
Check out the links… and if ever in Berlin come and have a butcher’s!