‘There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in’, sang Leonard Cohen in ‘Anthem’, a song from the album The Future.
Cohen did not like to explain his lyrics. Yet he said in an interview: ‘there is a crack in everything that you can put together: Physical objects, mental objects, constructions of any kind. But that’s where the light gets in, and that’s where the resurrection is and that’s where the return, that’s where the repentance is. It is with the confrontation, with the brokenness of things.’
Cohen’s quote could also be Strook’s motto. This Belgian artist is mainly known for his portraits, which take the form of wall reliefs in reclaimed wood. He finds his materials in so-called ‘non-places’: building sites, abandoned squats or other desolate areas. The wood that he collects has often had a long prior life. And that leaves its mark.
It is precisely those cracks, those fissures, that Strook is seeking. The weather-beaten colours and the splits in the material are vitally important to him. They tell the layered story of construction and destruction, of past and future, light and dark.
Strook is not a destroyer. He builds with time. And the cracks in his work define time, which is intangible and passes irrevocably. The fissures show how the layers of paint affect the wood. Time is a sculptor whose tools are weather and wind. The craquelure is significant in Strook’s work. It reveals the brokenness of which Cohen speaks. Strook does not manipulate the cracks but treats them as ready-mades.
Strook creates expressive compositions with his found wood. Mostly human figures with an abstract quality. Emotion is not only suggested by the postures, but also by the breaks in the wood. These lend the sculptures a picturesque skin and an emotional charge.
The patina of the material is the aesthetic imprint of time, Strook says. But it is also a mark of transience: a metaphor for how everything gradually changes, withers away or disappears. Both physically and mentally. Time is irrevocable. He draws people, but also materials and objects.
Strook feels that the German art critic Jocks describes it best: ‘Nothing stops time. Like a wave, it sweeps away everything it encounters, leaving only its imprint. Time brings things to life and lets them decay. It leaves its mark on everything. Time is not only a sculptor, but also a draughtsman.’