Belgian artist Thomas Lerooy is known for his ability to draw on classical motifs to play with modern concepts. His 2009 series of four bronze sculptures, created for his Braindance exhibition, are a prime example of how his work touches on universal themes. The sculptures, with their oversized heads and small torsos, draw out an immediate reaction. One sculpture, in particular, Not Enough Brains to Survive, continues to be one of his most recognizable works.
The original idea for the work was drawn from Lerooy's inability to hone in on one concept for his upcoming exhibition. In the end, that challenge became the concept. “That endless search became, at a certain point, the main idea. I was searching a step above my capacity—going further than my mind possibly could reach,” Lerooy tells My Modern Met. “I started to think about how I could turn this idea into a sculpture. My head literally felt very big and heavy, like I only existed out of a mind and no body…a fight between inside and outside.”
Drawing from his love of Classical Greek and Roman sculpture, Lerooy created strong and powerful bodies weighed down by large heads. For him, the pieces represent a moment of stillness just before the fall. In particular, Not Enough Brains to Survive has become a hallmark of Lerooy's oeuvre. Here a small body leans to the side, dragged over by the weight of an enormous head. Liquid spills from the figure's slightly open mouth as his head rests on the ground, unable to find the strength to support it.
As Lerooy himself acknowledges, over the years these works have taken on new meaning by viewers. People put their own layers and meanings into the art, allowing them to constantly evolve and remain dynamic. “What I notice today is that they pop up everywhere on social media in all different kinds of scenarios and meanings,” shares Lerooy. “They are picked up by students, after heavy months of lockdown, #BlackLivesMatter, people with hangovers… After a work of art is shown to an audience, it starts its own life and that is what is interesting, that people give it their own meaning.”