At first glance, the pieces of statuary dotted around the Barcelona studio of the artist Sergio Roger appear to be ancient marbles. But on closer inspection they turn out to be soft to the touch — modern remakes cut from antique white fabric.
‘The element of surprise plays a big role in my work,’ Roger explains in the short film above. ‘I try to reinterpret iconic elements of art history, with an idea to break down preconceptions of traditional sculpture.’
In the run-up to Classic Week, Christie’s exhibition designers have been working with Roger to plan a show in which his sculptures will be presented alongside their ancient counterparts from the Antiquities sale. It opens in London on 3 December.
Roger says that his artistic process begins with a spark of inspiration, often stemming from an encounter with a classical work. For example, one of his most recent sculptures is based on a bust of the Roman god Jupiter in Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum.
Roger’s Jupiter II is made from a single piece of antique linen purchased from a specialist store near his studio. ‘I look for this very thick, very rustic linen,’ he says, adding that the cloth’s coarse texture evokes chiselled and weathered marble.
The fabric is hand- and machine-stitched using traditional tailoring techniques. Roger can spend months embroidering a figure’s finer details, such as the delicate folds of a tunic or the tight curls of a beard.
The artist notes that linen was cherished by the inhabitants of the Greek and Roman empires; by repurposing it, he feels a connection to those ancient civilisations.
‘What I’m interested about in Greek and Roman art is its universality,’ he says. ‘It’s a common ground to talk about notions of beauty within Western perspectives. I think it’s very interesting to try to find a new way of revisiting art history.’
Since graduating from Berlin’s Art Academy, Roger has won several prizes and scholarships, including the Generation 09-Caja Madrid art award and the Meisterschülerpreis des Präsidenten.
Last September, during Milan Design Week, he exhibited his ‘Textile Ruins’ series at the Rossana Orlandi gallery, and it was there that Christie’s Ancient Art and Antiquities specialist Claudio Corsi first saw them.
‘I was immediately drawn to them for their familiarity,’ says Corsi. ‘It takes such skill to achieve this incredible effect, and they made me reconsider why these shapes are so evocative.
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‘They approach a subject normally perceived as erudite — and possibly a little intimidating — in a fresh way, and prove that we’re still not finished interrogating our past and the canons that shape our notions of art and idealism.’
Sergio Roger’s work will be on display at Christie’s King Street galleries in London, 3-7 December, alongside works from the upcoming Antiquities sale, which takes place on 8 December
Find out more about Sergio Roger at sergioroger.com