“In art, you always look for your place. At a museum, there are always some things you like and others you dislike; there are pieces you identify with. The same thing applies to the historical images I use. They are etched on our memory and have thus acquired normality, so that you almost get the sense that they are perfection itself. And people want to be perfect; they want to be able to identify with perfection." —Thomas Lerooy
Thomas Lerooy was born in Belgium in 1981 and lives and works in Brussels and Berlin. His bronze sculptures and drawings challenges and plays with the classical notion of the iconic, which has been a focal point in the history of art since antiquity. The references are bound to Western art, from ancient Roman as much as to that of the Renaissance, Classicism and Mannerism. However, even if Lerooy founds his artistic methods and subjects on the past, he is always concentrated on the present.
His works are based on the concept of painful beauty, a constant opposition of negative and positive connotations pervading this world; growth and decay, strength and decline, hope and sorrow. By using the formal elements and materials associated with high art, Lerooy disturbs the viewers’ expectations by fusing beauty and the grotesque. Through the highly imaginative links and by representing things upside down he disrupts the meaning of the icons of our civilization and so they become humoristic in a sneering way. Out of one-thing wells another thing spontaneously, layer after layer, leading to a mentally labyrinthine entity of meanings and misleading.
For the exhibition “I Need You Close”, the artist has focused on the idea of attraction, where gravity is in the center as a natural phenomenon by which all things with energy are attracted to one another. With an interest for the absurd and blurring lines, Lerooy is making us question the nature of things around us, by experimenting with this invisible force. Looking at the exhibition, he makes it seem as though gravity has increased its power, and as the unaffected witnesses, we surrounded by deconstructed elements dissolved by the force of nature, and then put back together again.
His immaculately detailed drawings betray an uncanny understanding of the weight of human life - a weight that is as insuperable in the face of vice as it is slyly comical in the face of mortality. Like renaissance depictions of saints and martyrs, Lerooy’s sculptures find themselves doomed to wear the consequences of their choices as lasting imagery, long past their finite existence. But Lerooy goes further: Suddenly, his subjects are no longer themselves, but become fragmented and dismembered, literal physicalizations of their shortcomings.
By using symbols of deterioration and mortality he distorts the civil meaning of the monument and provides it with an ironical charge. The figures he is shaping seem to come from another parallel world. Besides a game of attracting and rejecting, they also provoke the spectator’s direct reaction without allowing to be experienced in an unequivocal way.