brilliant 30: Artist Olivier Sévère
New perspectives on object qualities and material origins
Q. Can you tell us about your most recent work?
A. A year and a half ago, the thought occurred to me to work on the origins of marble. Marble was already a material that I had worked with for sculpture, but I wanted to present it in a more direct manner. Marble is a metamorphic rock created over a very long period of time; it began to be formed after the Big Bang. Marble is created from metamorphosed limestone, which is a sedimentary rock composed of the skeletal fragments of marine organisms. My recent works are a visual retelling of that process, which is much too complex and lengthy to be conveyed through still imagery or words alone.
Q. What sort of process is required to achieve that retelling? Does it change according to where the exhibition will be?
A. For this artistic narrative about the origins of marble, I had to find a similar environment in order to realize my idea. Luckily, I found a location that was favorable to our planned video on the decomposition of organic material. It was a privately owned plot of land near Paris with 17 reservoirs, and we got permission to film there. Through underwater videography, we were able to obtain footage suitable for presenting the origins of marble. We filmed the process of marble slabs floating in water, being swept into a small canal and then into a large reservoir, sweeping over the underwater plant life. The footage captured both the origin of the marble and the metaphor for the sculpture. The location of the exhibitions affects my creative process significantly. Most of my works are created with a gallery or museum exhibition in mind. When my work is going to be presented outdoors, I take into consideration the location, environment, and various other circumstances as I create it.
We are surrounded by physical materials but rarely observe them carefully; we do not understand where they came from or how they came to be. Discovering that certain materials were created 400 million years ago from what had been living organisms is fascinating! - Olivier Sévère -
Q. Natural materials appear frequently in your work. Is there a reason for that?
A. Nature is beautiful and mysterious. Observing minerals and marble, discovering how glass is made, and exploring that process, as well as exploring how different materials are used, allows me to make detailed plans about the work I wish to do. Ultimately, my interest is in observing the materials that surround us. I choose specific materials based on an inexplicable attraction; this might be based on the particular characteristics of the material, or sheer curiosity concerning its composition and origins. We are surrounded by physical materials but rarely observe them carefully; we do not understand where they came from or how they came to be. Discovering that certain materials were created 400 million years ago from what had been living organisms is fascinating! Not everyone finds these things interesting, but I certainly do, and I try to create art from all the physical matter I find around me. I have discovered plenty of materials in nature, but who knows what the future holds. I have been thinking about using artificial materials for my work, too.
Q. What makes an artist?
A. Curiosity. Seeing the world from a unique perspective, then showing others what you have discovered. This, I believe, is the role of the artist. I think that it is important to find a "new place" from which to carry out that role. Frequently changing one's place of work can be a means to break the mold of standards and circumstances. Recently I spent a few months in Korea for a residency, and it was a turning point for me in terms of changing my way of thinking and perception of objects. When we are fully immersed in a new world and discovering new information, we begin to see beyond stereotypes and standards; we rediscover past questions and approach them anew from different perspectives. Sometimes, we may discover new materials. This is not a transformation exclusive to artists, but in some ways artists can observe their environment in greater detail, and show others what they've discovered.
Q. Looking ahead, what are your expectations? Do you have plans?
A. I don't necessarily think far into the future. Even with future plans, I tend not to chase specific goals. Instead, I plan for the imminent future and focus on the present, enjoying what is at hand. For instance, I will soon be leaving for a residency in Kyoto, Japan, where I have particular things I want to do. Specifically, I wish to visit a volcano. Beyond that, I haven't decided if the work I want to do will be film, sculpture, or photography. Should circumstances allow, I would like to be involved in collaborative projects with non-artists.I have been fortunate enough to find a profession in what I enjoy doing, and I know this is a rare thing. It is wonderful to be able to love what you do, and enjoy life through it. Continued growth, learning, and self-improvement are all part of ongoing change. In that sense, my life truly has been, and continues to be, one of change.
En Substance(In Substance). 2015
Pyrite, Obsidian, Fluorite, Labradorite. Dimensions Variable. (Photo: Sara Barcaroli.)
In Itself(En elle-même). 2015
Agate, Brass. 155 x 35 x 35 cm. (Collaboration with: Francis Bourjot and Sébastien Chicot, photo: Felipe Ribon.)
One and Only(Un seul et même). 2014
Polyester Plaster, Pigments. Dimensions Variable. (Photo: Aurélien Mole.)
Photography. 75 x 50 cm (Photo: Thomas Robin.)
Bardiglio Marble, Brass, Tin. 280 x 165 x 50 cm. (Photo: Laurent Leucat.)
Photography laminated on Aluminum. 45 x 30 cm.
De rien ne se crée rien(Nothing from nothing ever yet was born). 2011
Crystal. Dimensions Variable. (Group of works created at the Cristalleries Saint-Louis as part of the residency program of the Fondation d'entreprise Hermès)
A sculptor and installation artist, Olivier Sévère was born in 1978 in Paris. He graduated from the National School of Fine Arts in Paris (Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-arts de Paris) in 2002. He still lives and works in Paris, but is active internationally, with diverse solo and group exhibitions in countries including Switzerland, Germany, Korea, and Japan. As a sculptor, Sévère explores the changing nature of materials and forms, presenting new perspectives on existing materials. He questions the physical concepts of weight, form and gravity with regard to sculpture, and raises questions concerning the concepts of natural and artificial. Sévère's study of materials is an ongoing effort from which we can obtain piercing insight.
■ Selected Solo Exhibitions
<Long Term> (Gallery Skape, Seoul, South Korea, 2017)
<A Ciel Ouver> (Chapelle des Calvairiennes, France, 2016)
<Un seul et même> (La Placette, Lausanne, Switzerland, 2014)
<Ci-dessous> (CAB, Centre d'art Bastille, Grenoble, France, 2013)
<De rien ne se crée rien)> (La Grande Place, musée du cristal, Saint-Louis-lès-Bitche, 2011)
<De la dispersion/Von der Zerstreuung> (Happyfew, Berlin, 2010)
<Rien à voir> (Interface, Dijon, France, 2009)
<Sans titre> (Galerie RDV, Nantes, France, 2008)
<Non Conformes> (Galerie Baumet Sultana, Paris, 2006)
■ Selected Group Exhibitions
<Mutations> (Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, 2015)
<Across the Universe> (MMCA Residency Changdong, Seoul, 2015)
<Condensation> (Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2013) / (Ginza Maison Hermès, Tokyo, 2014) / (L'Atelier Hermès, Dosan Park, Seoul, 2014)