The beauty found within some of nature's smallest creations was at the center of a unique artwork exhibition titled “Art of nature,” which concluded last week at the headquarters of Abdul Latif Jameel Group in Jeddah. This was Swiss jewelry designer Jorg Rohner's first solo exhibition on an international level.
Around 20 pieces featuring metal, cement and copper, in addition to gold- and silver-plated art works were on display at the exhibition that was held under the patronage of the Committee of Fine Art at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) in coordination with the Swiss consulate. Hisham Binjabi, head of the JCCI’s Committee of Fine Art, and Hans Satlder, Consul General of Switzerland, in the presence of several dignitaries and art enthusiasts last week, inaugurated the event.
“I was always inspired and fascinated by the wonders of nature; insects offer great variety of shapes, beauty. Their filigree structures and dynamic techniques are beyond comprehension,” said Rohner.
“The idea to call attention to the hardly outstanding visible beauty of the small animals, by scaling up the shape of the insects, developed during my thirty years of work as a jewelry designer. I created oversize, true-to-life sculptures in my own style. I felt that their beauty should come out in front of the world,” he said.
Rohner was born in 1951. He works as a freelance jewelry designer since 1979 in his studio in the area of Knonau’s castle near Zurich, Switzerland. In 1998, he created for the first time large-sized sculptures of insects. In 2008, he moved to his private factory, where with a team he creates large-sized insects in bronze, silver, gold and other precious materials.
"Insects are incredible monsters. I would not like to encounter a praying mantis; it does not have mercy. But it is an extremely fascinating and interesting animal. Imagine what kind of powers it has for its needs,” Rohner said.
Rohner works meticulously to create even the tiniest of features of the insects, so that all sculptures emerge detailed and true to scale. As the insects have fine limbs, legs, and wings, the artist uses special kinds of material to capture the details.
“We use different materials to give them finite shape. We use reinforcement steel, Styrofoam, paints, metal, epoxy cement and material to give them a solid form,” said Hanspeter Banmgartner, an artist and member of Rohner's team.
Banmgartner told Arab News that they take almost three weeks to finish one project, and that the time period also depends on how big the project is. The team has manufactured giant-sized insect sculptures for parks and villas.
“We are able to respond individually to the wishes of our customers. At present, we are intensively working on big projects for gardens, parks and turnpikes. Sometimes it can be challenging, such as, the task of making thin, but solid legs so that they are able to carry the weight and not cave in,” he said.
Special techniques are used to make the sculptures much larger than their originals. "It would simply not be possible to create something of such firmness and toughness in size using materials such as armor or shell,” said Rohner.
Explaining the sculpting process, he said: "The insects emerge from a scaffold made of reinforcement steel as is used in building construction. We join them according to the plan and sketches, which are developed after intensive research. The articlebody is made of epoxy cement, polyester or other firm and light materials."
“I obtained the required background information through a meticulous academic study and via contacting several insect experts. My technical skills as a jewelry designer and cooperation with a scientific draftsman and a sculpture allowed me to create the sculptures,” added Rohner.
JCCI's Committee of Fine Art head Binjabi admired the artist’s work and expressed delight in presenting the exhibition in the Kingdom.
“This is something unique, new and different. We can learn from this form of art what the European people think when they make something artistic,” he said.
Speaking at the exhibition, Swiss Consul General Satlder said he believes the exhibition strengthens the relationship between the two friendly countries, Saudi Arabia and Switzerland, and contributes to King Abdullah’s efforts to encourage inter-cultural dialogue.
Prices of the sculpture start from SR 15,000 to SR 20,000 and can reach up to SR 120,000 depending on the size and the material used.
The artists also expressed their desire to create a giant sculpture of a golden spider and a glowing web.
“We need two elephant teeth as pillars to support the web, which will be made with a material that glows in the night, similar to a 15-meter-wide spider web and a spider we created in Switzerland. However, for this we need sponsors,” said Banmgartner.