THE sixth in our series of profiles of former students of Bournville’s Art School explores the art of Roger Hiorns – an unconventional artist who creates his works by experimenting with various materials and substances.
Roger was born in 1975 in Birmingham. In his teens he attended the Art School and then moved on to finish his education in 1996 at Goldsmiths College in London. Roger’s main interest lies in the way social encounters, urban situations and objects transform under the influence of chemical and organic processes. As an artist Roger uses the no-hands method, preferring to merely observe the metamorphoses and reactions of the materials. He has been known to use detergents, disinfectants, semen, fire and chemical compounds.
One of his most famous large-scale installations is called Seizure. Roger wanted to create something that would communicate the idea of a disruptive thought, a thought with problems attached to it. For the purpose Roger used an abandoned flat in South London and, after reinforcing the walls and covering them in plastic sheeting, he filled the apartment with 75 000 litres of copper sulphate solution from a whole in the ceiling. After a few weeks crystals had started to form on the surfaces in the flat and what was left from the liquid was pumped back out. His work turned the anonymous empty flat into a popular destination and got him nominated for the Turner Prize in 2009.
Different machine forms are also appealing to the artist, who likes to use them as a metaphor for globalalisation – a network which is inert while at the same time alive. On many occasions he has used engines with a symbolic and physical power. A fine example is another work of his with a considerable amount of popularity which consists of a large pile of dust with broom marks and footprints in it. The dust was, in fact, collected from the remains of a jet engine. Roger explains that he wanted to turn a domineering object into something formless, which would never have strict ends to its identity. He has also covered other engines with copper sulphate crystals and inserted a brain matter into them.