His passion for wire began when he was fifteen. “During my strolls in de ‘mondi’, the open area, the flat-lands on Curacao, I found a piece of wire that had the shape of a net. With reinforced rebar I created a wire sculpture: a guard. Back then I already had the idea of the guardian, the protector. For some time I also made jewelry. Also from wire. I gave everything away. I worked with stainless steel wire. Here in Suriname I used scrap materials from Paranam. Later on I got wire from the EBS.” For fifty years long André de Rooy (Curacao, 1947) refrained from sharing his work with the general public. But, a few days before his 65th birthday, this changed. In December 2012 he presented his exhibition Fraya Waya in gallery Sukru Oso.
André is the eldest in family of five. For five years he was the only child of his father and mother: René de Rooy, writer/sculptor/language teacher and Thelma Ment-Ten Meer, art lover and -collector. His younger brother is the famous artist Felix de Rooy. “When we were young, we lived in different places, Suriname, Curaçao … For my father Suriname was a ‘rejected father land’.” René de Rooy also wrote a book with that title. André to the contrary, considers Suriname his ‘discovered homeland’. “This is my base,” he says.
What inspired him to finally come out as an artist? “This is the right moment. It is right, because I am ready for it now. At the moment we are fifty years from the beginning. I am an autodidact when it comes to my art. All this time I have been busy, I have given away things, also because as a physician I did not need to earn an income from it. It has been a comfort to be able to play with wire. A few months ago I met with Els Tjong Joe Wai. She said: ‘We have to hold an exhibition.’ And that moment has now arrived.”
“The word ‘fraya’; it comes from frayed, it is a word that I made up. I work with unraveled wires, which I ravel back together. I don’t work with fire. Nothing is soldered, nothing is welded. But everything is rearranged. Our mindset is not set to the triangle. We use a cube, a ninety degree system, while the triangle offers much more possibilities.”
“The works are transparent, movable. Some make sounds. They are flexible. They are selectively visible. Do you understand what I mean by that? I am a friend of Piet (van Leeuwaarde, great Surinamese artist with primarily wood sculptures, MV). I believe in IMA, Inventive Mystical Art. ‘Make cash from trash,’ says Roberto Tjon A Meeuw. For me, the material that I work with is my gold; my treasure chest contains wire.”
As the Rooy speaks, walking in between his sculptures, all the while playing with them, it strikes me how easy it is to follow what he says. At least, when I succeed in looking with my heart, just like the little Prince in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s book does, and not just with my head. My head understands nothing about matrixes and tetrahedrons; ‘Selectively visible’, another such an expression. But when I look at the works with open eyes and open heart, then I do understand what it means.
“All works consist of knotted junctions and connecting lines. How do I represent something with wire in a space? That is the challenge. Do more with less. First expand something to the maximum, and then reduce it back to the minimum.” He pulls on one of the wire sculptures which then becomes larger, taking up more space. Until De Rooy lets the sculpture shrink back, the connecting lines turning inwards once again. Like a lung that expands when you breathe in and shrinks when you exhale. “What I do is: use minimal means to express a maximum ‘gestalt’.” And with those words André de Rooy gives one of his works a slight push, after which the wire construction begins to wobble, to move.
Who and what are his sources of inspiration? “My gurus … The I Tjing. I kept looking for the essence, for the core of things. Around 1971 I saw the relationship between the coding of the DNA-molecule and the coding of the I Tjing. Furthermore, the idea of gestalt.” Gestalt is a term from psychology to describe coherent wholes, complete structures of ‘totals’ of which the nature cannot be discovered by a simple analyses of the constituent parts; the whole (gestalt) is more than the sum of the individual parts. Looking at André de Rooy’s work, I could also translate the word gestalt with ‘presence’. But then, presence in a way that I associate with the classic film Being there: intangible. Intangible, but unmistakable. Or an association from a more recent date: presence in way as in Marina Abramovic’ performance The Artist is Present.
“Richard Buckminster Fuller, he is my other guru. Because with his way of thinking, he makes links between different things and it becomes seamless. The invisible and the visible. Thinking and doing. Thus: how the world, the universe, works. He bases his assumptions on the whole.”
“As mystic the most precious to me is 1 Corinthians 13:13. ‘Faith, hope and love, those three; however the greater of the three is love. ’ I am a revolutionary inspired by love. The change must occur with love, not with violence. The central point is the family. A person is not isolated from his surroundings. If you want to change a community, you have to work on the families. You must attempt to detect the frictions in the families, you have to neutralize them. Or make something better of them. I think of the I Tjing, hexagram 37, about the family. I work with families, I am a family doctor. I am a generalist, not a specialist. When I was studying medicine I could not choose, so I chose Public Health. And I have a master’s degree in mother and child care.” Just like how, as a physician, De Rooy sees man as a part of his family, everything in his art as well, is interconnected: junctions and connecting lines. Less is more. “The change now, now that I dare to come out as an artist? I have gone from strict to more playful. From one color to multicolored. I have also used pieces of tubes for example.”
At the opening of Fraya Waya, where he is assisted by Erwin de Vries, André de Rooy refers to a stay in the area upstream of the Suriname River, at Lobi Lafu. In our conversation he had told me about it. “I experienced a creative explosion in Lobi Lafu. It was as though a weight fell off of me. I made at least ten works over there. The joy is in the making, and the giving. And maybe also in the getting, haha!” In his opening speech the artist talks to his public as though they are family. “We are wan blesi lobi lafu famiri. Sukru Oso is a junction point, a focal point.” Or rather: we are a blessed love/happy-family. He encourages people to touch the works of art, the works which are part of him. He has bared his soul/spirit/being for his family. “Yu man fasi en, den na wan pisi fu mi, mi opo mi yeye gi mi famiri [you may touch it, they are a part of me, I open up my soul to my family]. Now I finally have the courage, I am finally man/human enough.”
What does he hope to achieve with his art? Does he even want to achieve anything with it? “I hope that I inspire people and am myself also inspired. Art changes your mindset. Art has to put people to thinking, but it has to be pleasing too. Some works look threatening, and that as well is the reality. But….. at the same time it is only just wire. Some people watch, others take action.”
TEXT & PHOTOS Marieke Visser, 2012/2013
Marieke Visser (Bennekom, the Netherlands, 1962) studied journalism and language and literature in the Netherland s. As publicist she writes a lot about art, culture, history and tourism from her own news agency Swamp Fish Press. Three large art projects to which she has recently contributed are: Wakaman Drawing lines, connecting dots, Paramaribo SPAN and Kibii Wi Koni Marcel Pinas The Event. She is currently editor in chief of Sranan Art Xposed.
NOTE After the exhibition André de Rooy also did a workshop with children. Read about it here.
And please look at our photo report on the Sranan Art Flickr page.