Swiss artist, Ségolène Romier, was invited by the Swatch Art Peace Hotel to take part in their ‘artist’s residency’ program which opened at the end of 2011. After spending three months in Shanghai, Ségolène Romier is currently exhibiting her latest series ‘When the Sea Rises’ at O’Gallery until July 12th. Romier is a stone mason, an art form which is unusual in the 21st century. Shanghai 247 met up with her to discuss artistic concepts, passion for masonry and how Shanghai has inspired her works.
S247: Tell us a little about how you got into sculptures.
When I was a little girl, I kept saying that one day I would be a stone mason. I loved manual activities. I was an architect at first, because for my family it was just inconceivable not to do long studies. Therefore, I studied in Geneva, close to the Geneva Fine Art University. At first I started to earn a bit of money as a part time architect. Eventually I stopped my job to focus on sculpture.
S247: What is the concept behind your sculptures?
My artistic world is in 3D. I like photographs too, and that is why I took some of the children in the streets of Shanghai. Of course a picture is in 2D, so I always need to rework it, recut it, and re-explore it. There’s always a notion of space that is important to me. Stone Masonry is a real universe.
The title of this exhibition is ‘When the Sea Rises’; it’s a kind of reflexion of what is happening in the world. I think that the children in the photographs will be part of the generation who need the rubber life buoys; each sculpture has one, they are what help children learn to swim. I don’t want to say much more than that, I’d rather let the public decide for themselves. Some people come to see my works and have their own interpretation and idea of what they are seeing.
I dare think that the mix between the pictures and the sculptures is beautiful. While I was taking the pictures, I didn’t know at first that I would use them. I put a secret in some of the sculptures. This secret has a meaning only for me of course; therefore there is no need to discover it. It can be whatever you want it to be; before completely closing the sculptures with the secret, I take a picture. This only relates to the big one and the one with the giraffe buoy. I also put in each one a stone that I took from Moganshan Lu.
S247: What is your inspiration?
I always follow a theme. I once did a series about the Circus, or another one called ‘fly me baby’ with big sculptures like rockets.
I came to Shanghai, because I was invited but to be honest; I didn’t know what I would do. I just woke up and simply followed myself. For example, the biggest sculpture was not planed at all. The thing is that once you start to cut the stone you can’t change your mind, it’s a long process. However, when I started the first one, the other ones can change in my mind. After having done the third one, I thought to myself that a big character was about to be born... Actually, I created him according to what I saw here in the streets.
At first sight, one can think that the characters are from fairy tales. The title itself can make you think that it’s funny. I like the fact that the first idea you get from it is pleasant and funny. But, if you observe them in a more attentive way, you can observe that they might have a scared position and it is at that precise moment that the second message makes its impact.
S247: What about the technique you use with this secret material?
As with the material itself, the technique is also a secret... actually, I can tell you that I sculpt the material and after that I build a kind of “skin” on it. Here I had to find this material which is a bit different from what it is usually. I had to adapt myself to the local material.
S247: What are your plans for the future?
I am really sad to go back, because these last three months were just amazing and I really had no idea before coming out that I would love Shanghai this much! It is a wonderful discovery, it feels here that through art you can do everything, and that is such a breath of fresh air. After this I have some plans in Berlin and Amsterdam and after that I am presenting this exhibition in Geneva.