Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Art as inner necessity - Dominique Stroobant

"If art is not a necessity, you don't need art. It must want to come out of you.
The desire to make something and to articulate yourself through it is an inner necessity."
Dominique Stroobant, Miseglia-Carrara, 31 July 2011

Categories such as artist, philosopher, collector, sociologist, gallery owner or the scarcely graspable meta-category, art, do not play any central role for Dominique Stroobant in his thinking and practice. Stroobant does not fit into any pigeonhole and therefore does not correspond to any of the usual classifications aiming to lay down roles, functions and thus predictable modes of behaviour. He lives according to his own law-like regularities and in this has the courage and power to carry out his ideas. Dominique Stroobant is an author who is able to translate his questions born from curiosity into dream-images and inventions, and to transform these into matter. His sculptures rise from the depths of his creative mind that one could compare to a quarry, grown out of the traditional sediments of the human history of culture and technology. 
Stroobant has questions and finds solutions that could allow his multifarious actions to be categorized as those of a stonemason, photographer, sculptor, draughtsman, scientist, engineer or communicator, were it not for that inspiringly anarchistic trait in his being, which renders such a simple classification impossible. The first picture book he looked at in his early years in Westphalia in Germany was Struwwelpeter (Shaggy Peter) by Heinrich Hoffmann in 1854. Because of its questionable morality, it has come into disrepute today, but for more than a century this book has taught children where disorderly behaviour can lead. Fortunately, Stroobant did not let himself be influenced by the misfortunes of a "Fidgety Philip" or "Johnny Head in the Air", but interiorized what was rule-breaking and imaginative in it. The play with order and disorder, the search for the rule in what is apparently without one, and the pleasure in what is original drives him. Stroobant frequently likes to quote a statement by his friend, Max Bill: "I am chaotic, but have a great need to create order".
When one views Stroobant's sculptures, the lightness of these tension-filled forms sawn from marble or granite with diamond wires is fascinating. Stroobant works in Carrara at a stonemasons’ studio equipped with state-of-the-art equipment for working with stone, whose spirit and organization are rooted in medieval stonemasons' lodges. The forms for his works are found by shaping clay before being geometrically transformed into ideal art forms — the Hegelian "art-beautiful". In sculptures such as Door Vinnen Heen, Voile or Matrice, so-called 'ruled surfaces' emerge that cannot be rolled up into a plane, as is the case with a cone or a cylinder. A hyperbolic paraboloid, a curved surface without a centre is generated in space by the motion of a straight line.  If the stone being worked is rotated on its own axis on a supporting surface, while the straight wire saw moves downward, parabolic forms arise that cannot be grasped photographically and also challenge human perception.
Classical art history developed its methods of viewing and analyzing works from painting. Language describes art works, but can never be anything more than an approximation. A painting can be seen. A sculpture is a thing that can be seen, felt and walked around, and whose view changes with every movement. In contrast to perceiving painting, what is unavoidably invisible from each point of view, the rear, is also always conceived. The exciting thing about Stroobant's most recent works is the difficulty of grasping the curved surfaces from the front and rear. According to Max Bill, sculptures are "knots in space". Knots attain their tension through the energy they bundle and retain. Spatially they can scarcely be imagined. Knots, like sculptures, have to be understood and thus solved. Stroobant's works are fascinating in this way. They foster attentiveness, attract, make viewers curious and teach them that there are elementary differences between sculpture and painting.

Dirk Pörschmann, Kassel/Germany, January 2012
Translated from the German by Dr Michael Eldred, artefact text & translation, Cologne

Commissioned by Axel Vervoordt, the author is working on a monograph on sculptures, photographs, drawings and illustrations by Dominique Stroobant. The book, which will comprehensively present Stroobant's versatile oeuvre for the first time, is to appear in summer 2012.