Hans van Hoek

Deurne NL 1947, <br/ >all works on long term loan to Museum Van Bommel-Van Dam Venlo

Since his early studies after El Greco (from the years 1974-1976) Hans van Hoek has come to regard painting more and more as a study. Seriousness, dedication and respect for the timeless qualities of classic masterpieces have always clearly distinguished his paintings from the ironic commentary on art history in which many of his contemporaries sought refuge. Those for whom Baudelaire’s plea for ‘peinture de la vie moderne’ remains relevant find his work anachronistic. It is, however, not modern life but painting itself, the matter of how to make a good painting, that interests Van Hoek.

The manner of painting with separately placed brushstrokes, which he developed in the studies after El Greco, formed the prologue to a lengthy and intensive investigation of Cezanne’s modulating touch. The French master, for many the father of modern painting, profoundly influenced Van Hoek with respect to the organization of the image, the interrelationships of colors and the creation of his own quality of light.

Van Hoek studied the landscape surrounding his farm in Brabant in the same way that he studied Cézanne. Working from pure observation outdoors confronted him with the problem of how to express an almost religious experience of nature in a single image, one which is not an impression of the environment but a re-creation of nature. In his drawings this leads to a nearly calligraphic execution of line, which is used against the blankness of the white paper: the searching eye is translated into delicate, sketched lines with charcoal or ink. Such drawings could be developed into landscapes in the studio. ‘In order to paint a tree, you must be able to dream a tree. Otherwise it’s realism,’ explained the artist. ‘The trees that I love are in my body, my wrists, in my paint. Nature has to be a part of you; only then can you gain access to a world where painting is possible.’

Van Hoek has given many of his paintings heavy, monumental frames; these are carved, painted and polished with the earnest dedication of a craftsman and decorated with ornaments, inscriptions or floral motifs that one would sooner expect of the symbolistic Jugendstil of Toorop or Prikker. The frame of the painting is both an enclosure and protector of the image, a tangible aureole for the imaginary world of the painting.