Realistic Surrealism: A Studio Visit with Thomas Leeroy
During our recent visit to Brussels, we stopped by the studio of the Belgian artist, Thomas Lerooy. The studio itself is an architectural wonder in itself, built inside an run-down, 1960's garage, where the space is intersected into a main work/living area and built-in sleeping and lounging areas both filled with a variety of artworks and rare furniture pieces.
Arguably most recognized for his sculptures than his paintings, we caught up with Leeroy prior to a presentation of works at Rodolphe Jensen's booth at Art Basel Miami. Cherishing the idea of working on a small scale and creating work that will feel precious, Lerooy has recently finished a series of paintings following onto the body of work that was recently presented at Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels. In particular, the three new paintings he was working on are experimenting with the concept of horizon and sea view, while reinventing and constructing an exceptional trompe l'oeil illusion.
With a clear reference to the native country's favorite, Magritte, his realistically rendered images are, in reality, based on surreal concepts. The strong interest in shifting the main elements of the work, something Lerooy has done in his sculptural practice, the works construct a puzzling imagery that carries an almost Escher-like atmosphere. By switching the roles between the foreground, characters, and background, the images which appear as a landscape scenery at first are actually a series of surreal impossibilities that seize the viewer's attention and challenge the sense of logic.
Such methodology is borrowed from his sculptural practice in which he is regularly changing the values, switching roles, and questioning the norms. Whether deconstructing the existing work, realizing technically demanding or impossible concepts, exaggerating iconic tropes, or playing with the familiarity of materials, Lerooy's work carries a sense of affinity with tradition while challenging and playing with the classical notion of the iconic. By repeatedly basing his work on the existing, historic concepts, through an unrestrained creative process he is able to rearrange its values and recounstruct a completely new, contemporary work concentrated on the present. —Sasha Bogojev