SCULPTING WITH FABRIC. Sergio Roger graduated from Berlin’s Art Academy (UdK) where he studied Sculpture and New Media Art. He has received several important awards and his work has been exhibited in international galleries such as Galleria Rossana Orlandi and Robilant + Voena in New York. Sergio’s work is rooted in his life-long fascination with visual representations of beauty in ancient civilizations, especially the Graeco-Roman era and its modern counterparts.

You can listen to the podcast of this interview here.

Sergio Roger, you have specialized in working artistically with textiles since you were very young. Is there a family connection?

Until recently I wasn’t aware of how connected to my family this is. When I was really young, I started to play around with fabrics. I self-taught how to sew and stitch, and after I started Fine Arts this was always the language I felt comfortable with. I’ve been developing and improving the technique and the method, but recently, talking to my family, I realised there’s an invisible memory attached to it. I was aware that my father was the last generation owner of a factory producing textiles in Catalonia, but they closed this factory when my father was young so I was not raised in the factory.

Do you have an imaginary nostalgia for this?

No, it’s something else, a subconscious memory that’s there and you’re not aware of. It comes from somewhere very original. Some months ago I was talking with my aunt and she told me that my surname Roger comes originally from 15th century Netherlands, and they moved to Catalonia and were wool manufacturers. They brought all these techniques to this region, and that’s where my family with the factory comes in. So it’s been a really long tradition within these materials.

“I’m passionate and obsessed with these kinds of fabrics”

Sergio Roger

Sergio Roger, photo by Adrien Dirand© Courtesy of Robilant+Voena

Sergio Roger, which textiles do you use?

Usually linen, and I’ve been starting to work with raw silk. The linen that I use is not regular linen. I buy it from antique shops, especially from the south of France, but I have different sources and suppliers. I collect pieces of fabric that have a patina, that tell a story by themselves. I’m passionate and obsessed with these kinds of fabrics, since the main subject I work around is archaeology and Greco-Roman art, and they already have this visual texture effect that simulates stone.

Your exhibition at Robilant + Voena in New York is called Mnemosyne’s Delay. It’s an exhibition of sculptures of antique gods and goddesses, of philosophers and emperors. Sometimes they have no eyes, just the shape of the face. They look like stone sculptures, but are not at all stone sculptures. The installation reminds me of the Kunsthistorisches museum in Vienna. Why did you decide to do this exhibition simulating Greek and Roman art?

This exhibition reflects an extension of my own artistic practice. I continue working with creating a textile soft sculpture, inspired by actual archaeological artefacts, specifically Greek or Roman pieces. I have a long tradition of working with soft sculpture and at this stage of my career I reached a level of precision with this technique. It is a technical challenge, to see how far I could come creating this detail of features with fabric with a material and a technique which has limitations.

Do you work by yourself?

Now I have several assistants, due to the amount of shows and commissions, and also because I’m not trained as a fashion designer so there are some parts of the process I actually need specially technically talented people to help me with.

What do you fill your fabric sculptures with?

It depends on the type of sculptural piece, on the size, on the final effect. I use wooden structures, and I use regular padding as you would to stuff pillows, and I use a high-performance padding which makes the work last forever because it’s just like silicone.  I use this antique fabric and most of the time after I collect these fabrics from France I natural-dye them in order to create these irregular stains that highlight the idea of the passage of time, of replica and so on. In terms of craftsmanship, work and precision, it’s absolutely crazy the amount of time it takes.

Does your work have an aesthetic purpose, or is this your way of interpreting the world?  

For me it is very important to balance those. My work is visually very appealing. It’s also something that I naturally do. It’s a very accessible kind of art. People can navigate my work from different levels because you can always stay on the surface, but for me there is also a very important conceptual part. My artistic practice enables me to research and learn, and I take a lot of history, philosophy and mythological courses. My work is really to challenge the perception of the viewer. I work with very conventional setups, where you see it from afar and think this is like an art history gallery or an archaeological gallery, but no. I showed in Christie’s in London in 2021 together with the Roman and Greek antique pieces which were actually in their auction. We created this set up where you didn’t know which was which, but it was like a dramatic language.

Sergio Roger, which textiles do you use?

Usually linen, and I’ve been starting to work with raw silk. The linen that I use is not regular linen. I buy it from antique shops, especially from the south of France, but I have different sources and suppliers. I collect pieces of fabric that have a patina, that tell a story by themselves. I’m passionate and obsessed with these kinds of fabrics, since the main subject I work around is archaeology and Greco-Roman art, and they already have this visual texture effect that simulates stone.

Your exhibition at Robilant + Voena in New York is called Mnemosyne’s Delay. It’s an exhibition of sculptures of antique gods and goddesses, of philosophers and emperors. Sometimes they have no eyes, just the shape of the face. They look like stone sculptures, but are not at all stone sculptures. The installation reminds me of the Kunsthistorisches museum in Vienna. Why did you decide to do this exhibition simulating Greek and Roman art?

This exhibition reflects an extension of my own artistic practice. I continue working with creating a textile soft sculpture, inspired by actual archaeological artefacts, specifically Greek or Roman pieces. I have a long tradition of working with soft sculpture and at this stage of my career I reached a level of precision with this technique. It is a technical challenge, to see how far I could come creating this detail of features with fabric with a material and a technique which has limitations.

Do you work by yourself?

Now I have several assistants, due to the amount of shows and commissions, and also because I’m not trained as a fashion designer so there are some parts of the process I actually need specially technically talented people to help me with.

What do you fill your fabric sculptures with?

It depends on the type of sculptural piece, on the size, on the final effect. I use wooden structures, and I use regular padding as you would to stuff pillows, and I use a high-performance padding which makes the work last forever because it’s just like silicone.  I use this antique fabric and most of the time after I collect these fabrics from France I natural-dye them in order to create these irregular stains that highlight the idea of the passage of time, of replica and so on. In terms of craftsmanship, work and precision, it’s absolutely crazy the amount of time it takes.

Does your work have an aesthetic purpose, or is this your way of interpreting the world?  

For me it is very important to balance those. My work is visually very appealing. It’s also something that I naturally do. It’s a very accessible kind of art. People can navigate my work from different levels because you can always stay on the surface, but for me there is also a very important conceptual part. My artistic practice enables me to research and learn, and I take a lot of history, philosophy and mythological courses. My work is really to challenge the perception of the viewer. I work with very conventional setups, where you see it from afar and think this is like an art history gallery or an archaeological gallery, but no. I showed in Christie’s in London in 2021 together with the Roman and Greek antique pieces which were actually in their auction. We created this set up where you didn’t know which was which, but it was like a dramatic language.

“Art is the laboratory where things are taken out of the world and seen and put under the light”

Sergio Roger, was this exhibition in New York inspired by a trip to Crete?

The title, Mnemosyne’s Delay, condensed two main ideas. On the one hand, Mnemosyne is the goddess of memory, represented by a big faceless head.  As for Delay, last summer on the way back from Crete to Barcelona, I had a connecting flight in Vienna. We were delayed, and had to spend a night and a day in Vienna, and I had the chance to visit one of my favourite museums, the Kunsthistorisches museum. I went into this room in the Greek Roman department with these beautiful pillars, with all these characters, a very staged dramatic set up, and it was beautiful, sublime, really cool. In one hour I jumped in space and time. I came from Crete in Greece, the island source of mythological art, an archive of the imaginary, and then in one hour I was in an archetypal 19th century European museum. It was very interesting to try to understand how we create meaning and how we relate to archaeological objects, because for me with anything over 2000 years old there’s an interpretation, and this sort of art or site of interpretation is what we call archaeology, that was born in the 19th century.

Are you an archaeologist/artist?

I am a tailor/archaeologist. I love combining using metal, for instance steel, because when I go to museums I really focus and observe the architecture, the elements that they use to showcase the works. Bas reliefs have these metal hooks that are in contrast with the stone. I observe and play with these kinds of elements and try to introduce them in my work. I’m constantly experimenting.

Do you belong to a movement?

No, and my art is a bit difficult to classify. People don’t really know how to place it, because it’s transversal. Craft plays a big role in some sectors of the art world, but it can be questioned sometimes. Different fields play a role in my work. Craft is very important; history is very important, and the fact of showcasing. I’ve also done some collaborations with design galleries, but, in the end, how I understand art or why I think this is the best set up to show my art, is because art is the laboratory where things are taken out of the world and seen and put under the light.

When the fashion label Hermes gave you two window displays in their shop in Barcelona, what did you do?

That was a beautiful collaboration, of a kind that I don’t do usually, but Hermes is  a brand that has a long tradition of supporting art and craftmanship. It has the right idea of luxury. This new store in Barcelona has twin windows, very narrow and very tall, difficult to navigate. When I saw the height, I created two goddesses without heads in dyed fabric, elevating the dress, and the inside was covered in bright beautiful Hermes leather. I made it look like an archaeological excavation, with the elements of earth and salt.

Did you make this in your studio in Barcelona?

Yes, I’m originally from Barcelona, and I moved to Berlin from 2005 to 2010 to start my career. I did my art studies there, and at that time Berlin was a very vibrant city. I was taught by professional contemporary artists, big names, before Berlin’s visibility through social media. You used to have to be in the centre of art in order to be seen or to exchange, and this has changed. Today, you can be anywhere in the world, and can travel and show your work through social media, through the internet or through galleries. You don’t need to be somewhere any more. I love and live in the countryside near Barcelona, and my main studio is in a little village close to Barcelona.

Sergio Roger
Sergio Roger

Sergio Roger for Milk Magazine © Salva Lopez

Sergio Roger

Sergio Roger, artwork installation © The Artist, Courtesy Robilant+Voena

Sergio Roger

Sergio Roger, artwork installation © The Artist, Courtesy Robilant+Voena

Sergio Roger

Sergio Roger, photo by Adrien Dirand© Courtesy of Robilant+Voena

Sergio Roger

Sergio Roger, artwork installation © The Artist, Courtesy Robilant+Voena

“In my daily life, I don’t want distraction.”

Sergio Roger, are you a Spanish or a Catalan artist?

I went to a British school, studied in international school, was in Stockholm and Berlin for a year. I respect people who have this feeling for nationality, of patriotism, but I never had it. I think it would be great, but I don’t have that kind of irrational passion, just as I don’t get this craziness for soccer. I’m European.

Is Barcelona an interesting city today?

It’s not. We are spoilt in Barcelona because Barcelona until the last ten years was the centre of Spain, the most well-known city. We were always forward thinking and everything happened in Barcelona. Now other cities are also doing really well. Spain became a bit more modern and Madrid is definitely the place now. They have the money, and they say it’s the new Miami.

Would you like to move to Madrid?  

No, I’m searching for the opposite thing. I don’t really like cities. I enjoy being in my studio, reading, walking my dog, meeting friends. And then luckily, I have the chance through my work to be one week in New York and meet really interesting people. But in my daily life, I don’t want distraction. Actually, I’d love to move into a vibrant and authentic little village in Mallorca, and meet local people.

How do you find the world of art nowadays?

It’s a very vast world, I don’t think you can somehow compress it into one definition. Everything’s multiplied in every field. In a way it’s more democratic. It’s great that the market has grown, so you can make a living in art in an easier way, and especially to get a window to the world. The role of the gallery in relation to art has changed a lot. It’s possible to make a living, whatever that means as an artist, without being represented by a gallery today, but the gallery still plays a very important role in order to reach certain levels and certain kind of collectors and recognition. I’m really happy about Robilant + Voena because they have this long history and tradition, and I learn a lot through this journey with them. But I had this experience with other galleries, which was: “Okay, I’m paying you 50% of what I sell, but what are you really doing?” I sold more myself through my studio than from the gallery. In the end only the good galleries are going to last, the galleries that are really giving extra.

Where do you like to see your work?

I love to see my work in museums, and I love to work in this big scale of sculptures and to make big scale installations. The textile works cannot be put outside, but maybe one day I will cast a piece made out of fabric in bronze. I could actually make a bronze with stitches. For me material has something, and when I meet someone that also has this fascination with material, there’s an instant connection.

Are you going to stay around the Mediterranean?

Yes, my life and work is very connected to the ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean Sea, used by the ancient Greeks, by the Egyptians, the Phoenicians, where they found and dated linen from the Neolithic era. But I love Soviet sculpture, and I love Rodin. I’m fascinated by many people. I love medieval, religious, wooden sculpture, I’m really fascinated by it. Some of my sculptures are moving slowly more into abstraction, to a subjective interpretation of talking about this idea of ruin, but from a more poetic or more personal way. So this is Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory, an interpretation.

Do you visit Pompeii?

Pompeii is definitely one of the places I have to go. I’m showing an installation in Bonifacio Corsica at a biennial and I’m showing ruins, broken pieces and columns in a really amazing set up, an old military building in front of the sea that belonged to the Foreign Legion. It’s not in the main road of art, but that’s part of the idea and they have a really interesting line up of artists talking about the ideas of the ruin, of the fall of empires. Then I will start with a Renaissance Museum in Italy, one of my favourites. I cannot say which place yet, but it’s a Roman sculpture museum in Italy. it’s 99% going to happen, but we didn’t sign that yet, because, you know, Italian bureaucracy….

Thank you very much.

Portrait of Sergio Roger by and © Salva Lopez.

 

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