By Hanne Hagenaars

‘I felt a sense of alienation’, says Berend Strik in his atelier. As an artist, you float along on the endless sea of the world of art, but how do you make sure your ship doesn’t slowly disappear amidst the waves?

Strik made a list of a number of artists with whom he felt a strong connection and developed a series of images based on their studios. He used each of the works to initiate an imaginary conversation.

In 1969, Bas Jan Ader sent a card inviting the public to his exhibition, nothing strange about that. But when you arrived at the specified time and place, you found an empty garage and the text PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME written on the wall. A bunch of industrial lamps lit up the words, and the rest the building was deserted. Please, don’t leave me is a sentence that we have all probably whimpered at some stage, and which we then carry with us forever.

Berend Strik asked Bas Jan Ader’s widow for a photo of his studio and what she gave him was a print of this installation. Strik rubbed out the words, leaving nothing but a rubbed out, bare white space. He emphasised absence by removing the text and afterwards, he wrote in this emptiness by means of embroidery. Loose threads on the canvas are visible in places, but they cannot fill the empty space.

The abstract version of absence on the front has a concrete counterpart on the reverse of the work, in the form of a colourful kaleidoscope of personal photos. They fixate moments that Strik experienced and which formed the course of his life. Bygone days. Meetings, romances, loss, unavoidable, and which human beings have to learn to cope with.

‘For me, as maker, the work of art is essential as an object, because the handicraft – the attention, thoughts that the work absorbs – open up a world of sentiment and longing. This series brought me back in touch with my soul and enabled me to resume my place as an artist without becoming concerned about the endless cosmos.’