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You’ve probably never heard of Jan Laroy, and that’s exactly the way he wants it. Stashed away in his studio, he struggled to go beyond his own contradictions. He only found his own voice after he let go of the assumption that an individual can only tell a single story. He’s a problematic thinker to some, a rebel to others.
Interview by Sofie Steenhaut
Photos shot by Tiny Geeroms
I used to have the feeling I was imitating others; I couldn’t cut loose from everything that had been done before
You waited two years after graduating to show your work. Why?
I kept creating but I wasn’t ready to showcase my work. I wanted to create a distance between me and the school, the teachers, my peers. You easily get branded after graduating as being from ‘that school’. So, I locked myself up and worked on my own. I’ll probably show my work somewhere in February – or I won’t, and I’ll keep it all to my very self.
What are you working on now?
I came to the conclusion that I have a love-hate relationship with frames – with structure, actually. I love structure but I abhor it at the same time. Structure gives me peace but I’m also terrified of it. I want to have the feeling that anything is possible. But with a closed frame it’s all set. That’s why I try to frame, almost literally. I use lines in the most direct way; let’s say, to draw a border. I try to capture something, to give structure. But not completely: there is almost always something wrong or missing.
I think people are constantly restricting, structuring and framing certain ideas and concepts. I see my work as some sort of background. I want to give life a frame. I want people to walk in front of it so the works have a dialogue with the spectators, the space or the objects. I’d like it to be an imperfect encapsulator for a tiny part of whatever this may be. Or perhaps it’s something completely different, I’d rather you tell me.
You often seem to contradict yourself.
I have a tendency to explain things but when I’m talking, I realise my words don’t make sense at all. What I’m saying at the moment is the most idiotic thing but then it also isn’t. That’s a constant conflict. Even when I’m not creating, I have the same questions. What’s the barrier between love and friendship? What’s the relationship you have with others? When does this horse become a man? You’re continually exploring because the frame of others might be – or most certainly is – different from yours. That’s what my work is somewhat about.
Are you a rebel in some ways?
I have a lot of problems with authority. But to say I’m a rebel, no. I don’t necessarily try to do something new. For me, the form is the most important thing. I don’t want to be innovative, I just want to have my own voice. And again, I feel that’s a mighty stupid thing to say.
I think it’s beautiful to say yes and no at the same time and live in that place
Are you still looking for your own voice?
I searched for a while, we all continually do. Now I have the feeling I’m getting somewhere. I used to have the feeling I was imitating others; I couldn’t cut loose from everything that had been done before. People are also very quick to point out, ‘This looks like that.’ To be honest; I don’t want to be like anyone else. Maybe I’m rebellious in that way.
My own contradictions are something I’ve fought against. I wanted to have a straightforward, airtight message but you soon realise that’s impossible. I think it’s more beautiful to say yes and no at the same time and live in that place. Although you do have to make choices, after all: the cat is not dead. In my philosophy exam, they called me a ‘problematic thinker’. And I thought, ‘So what?’ I used it as the title of my thesis.