Thomas Lerooy — Souvenir
Past: May 31 → August 21, 2012
After the success of the exhibition The Garden of Exile in 2010, which invited visitors to take part in a metaphysical meditation on the themes of creation, desire and captivity, this Belgian artist (born Roeselare, 1981) continues to probe the inner frontiers of human experience with two sculptures and a set of new drawings on the theme of memory, Souvenir.
If a souvenir can exist as a material object, it does so, as the artist reminds us, only by virtue of the immaterial thoughts that its owner invests in it.
“The object in itself has no real meaning apart from the owner’s psychological bond with it, as a symbol of a past experience. Without its owner, the object’s meaning cannot manifest or express itself.”
The questioning of the human psyche goes hand in hand with formal inquiry: how does one show the new status acquired by the beloved object over time? “It takes a new form which gains in value. The dust covering materialises the flow of memory by bestowing a certain beauty on it, a beauty that is perceptible in this new temporality,” notes Lerooy. A melancholy poetry which emanates from the two sculptures presented in this exhibition.
A young boy modelled in bronze with a black patina is huddling with his back to the viewer. He is suspended by orange ropes, with a steel nail hanging from the wall. Nobody has come to collect this child who was evidently abandoned here and grew to be this young boy resigned to his fate, holding a finger to his mouth so as not to be disturbed. Debris is piled into a cardboard box in cast bronze. These are fragments of a sculpture by the artist, Falling apart together, held together by orange rope, like a gift that someone forgot to give then left in a corner of the studio. By wrapping these broken-up bodies, Lerooy succeeds in creating beauty out of destroyed, brutalised material.
Thomas Lerooy identifies the notion of souvenir with this tension that arises between the idea of elevation and that of the fall. The emotional density of the vestige resides in its capacity to simultaneously evoke lost grandeur and dereliction, presenting in the baring of the cruelty of the human condition which invokes the heritage of Bruce Nauman and his aesthetic of corporeal abasement. The staging recalls the world of still lifes: the debris laid out like ruins and the forgotten child huddled against the gallery wall suggest a time frame that started well before the viewer arrived. In this state of apparent tranquillity and calm, in which time has stood still, the sculptures seem to have been abandoned. But they still have their own secret, mysterious life. By revealing their expressiveness to the viewer’s more circumspect observation, Lerooy’s works convey the vitality of memory and come across as the tangible, elevated manifestation of those moments of “dazzling grief” that punctuate human lives.
The Sunshine in Your Eyes, 2012, Working against the current of today’s sculpture, with Souvenir Lerooy continues his reinterpretation of models borrowed from classical statuary which he revisits with a resolutely contemporary vigour and a gravitas tinged with dark humour not unlike that of Maurizio Cattelan’s squirrel Bidibidobidiboo. Using traditional materials — the sculptures are made in bronze using lost wax technique, he expresses his fascination with the human body, which he mistreats by immobilising it or breaking it down. What is left are quiet, disarticulated silhouettes evoking the fragile power of threatened masterpieces.