World Artists and their Story, 25 - Serge Game
Serge Game makes sculptures of foam, polyether foam, which is also in mattresses. With glue he sticks it together, cutting it with a bread knife and preserving it with acrylic resin.
Three examples could be seen in the Bob Smit Gallery. These were smaller foam sculptures, he also has much larger specimens, totem-like sculptures, sometimes hanging on the wall. One of the first major polyether foam scuptures was a totem pole of four meters high. It originated while experimenting. But unpreserved polyether foam does not last forever, it discolors and eventually crumbles under the influence of sunlight. He cut the sculpture to make new sculptures that fitted in spaces with a common lower altitude.
I speak with Serge in the gallery. Besides his sculptures there are paintings on the walls, some large, and a series of drawings. For the first time Serge Game shows his sculptures, drawings and paintings together. Game: “Previously my drawings were a kind of ‘fremdkörper’ at exhibitions. Only in recent years it all comes together. In this way, a cross-fertilization arises between two-dimensional and three-dimensional. It makes my practice richer and more exciting.”
We look at the work more closely, starting with the foam sculptures. ‘Jean Priape’, a double-faced head with big ears and the hair standing straight up, like the God Priapus, and two huge noble parts, which are so large that a nose is no longer needed. On one side there is a curved support piece so that the noble part proudly stays up.
Next to it hangs a rope ladder. ‘De Leer’ it is called. There are some sports in the ladder in which scrolls without text are hidden. Game: “De leer is an old word for ladder, the word also refers to doctrine. The ladder goes to heaven, it is a reference to the Jacob’s Ladder.” According to the Bible, angels climbed through the ladder from heaven to earth and back again. In a dream Jacob saw Yahweh at the top of the ladder, speaking to him and promising him the land of Canaan.
On the other side of the room stands ‘Reliquary’. It is a small container of relics. It looks monumental. “You will see the monumental form come back in my drawings. ‘Reliquary’ is in between a functionless form and a treasure chest. This year I saw in Aachen the treasury of the cathedral, the burial place of Charlemagne. Great! A lot of pomp. Sometimes you see bones in the reliquaries, but often it is not there anymore. But the effect is equally effective, because you start to think that a piece of a saint was in it.”
We go to the drawings. They are made with oil pastel. There is a huge one titled ‘Fire of Laments’ and many smaller ones at B5 size (between A5 and A4). In al these drawings flames flying away and big, sometimes terrifying, questioning eyes. Often with an ecstatic expression. “Animated fire. I consider fire as an alive organism. In ‘Fire of Laments’ you see a dystopian landscape and on the ground all kinds of odds and ends among which you can perceive bones and other human remains.”
On one of the small drawing a phoenix rises from the ashes. “The phoenix is the mythological bird from Greek and Roman legends. Other elements refer to artifacts from Oceania. There you can see many sculptures that are actually abstract and also often have small anthropogenic or zoomorphic features. The Wereldmuseum here in town has a fine collection of these sculptures, including a kind of very high totem poles which were placed near ‘longhouses’. Inspired by those totem poles, I started experimenting with polyether foam.”
On another drawing, ‘Outskirts’ you can see a kind of totem pole with the tongue falling on the ground from a gaping mouth. On the left is a large wheel with some bodies dangling. “It’s a kind of whirligig, to which bodies, actually more stick figures, are hanging, falling prey to raptors. The title of this work refers to a painting by Philip Guston, my idol.”
We go to the big paintings. At ‘Fortress’ (2012) we see a fortress consisting of twisted stairs. The wood of the stairs is scorched. “As inspiration I had a three-dimensional arrangement, made of DAS, a modeling paste. I first crushed the block and rolled it into a thin piece with a rolling pin and then turned stairs out of it. It was exciting to see whether it would succeed, because DAS consists of nothing but wood glue and paper pulp. Although the painting is based on a spatial arrangement and there certainly is depth, I always think the actual depth of my paintings, might you measure it, is only 5 to 10 centimeters. It has a front and a background that are just inches apart, and that I wanted to achieve. ‘Fortress’ is a fortress which is not a fortress, a form of false security.”
Behind Jean Priape hangs another large painting, it seems a big yellow lantern on a chain. The lantern resonates in blue and gray uniform lines. “It is a reliquary filled with ‘water of life’. A ‘strongbox’ usually a metal box designed for storing valuables. I wanted to have an organic form. Inside the strongbox there is light. You see ghost shadows.”
At the back of the other gallery room hangs ‘Mana’, a huge constricted pink cactus, it seems. In front of a wall, on a sloping surface and propped up in order not to fall. “Mana is a supernatural power that is in all things. For Polynesians mana was a force that stood for respect, authority, power and prestige. Not only people could have mana, but even lifeless objects. My mana is on a Sisyphus slope, false flat.”
An at far left hangs a smaller painting of earlier date, 2008, titled Thonopo. “An anagram for No Photo. It is a statement. For free painting, free form. Incidentally, I have processed picture pieces in it. It’s tongue-in-cheek. As an example served my old mobile phone, a Samsung, that I could clap open and shut. I’ve turned it into an unbalanced creature.”
Does Serge have a key work, a work that served as a tipping point? It seems to be there indeed. It’s called ‘Make room for the blessed’ (2005). We see red and brown sperm-like creatures. It could also be fruits, plants, or animals. Game: “For this painting I worked figurative. I thought it was too anecdotal. With this more abstract work, I got in my own right. All the works follow this work. Sometimes you have to do things before you can understand them. You have to take a ‘hump’ and purely by working you arrive where you should be. You only see it the next day or a month later. This work opened the door to a new view on my work. It gave me a different perspective. With a circular movement I later came back into my first source of inspiration. I dared to bring it back into my work. I think this has to do with the fact that I’m working for some time and take the freedom to be more fluid with anything that concerns and fascinates me.”
His motivation is to evoke alienation. “I give a finger, but not the whole hand. A piece of alienation in the work causes people to be put on the wrong track. The characters and objects stand in their own right, but not in place and seem displaced. Where they exactly are is unclear, as well as why they are there. This is reinforced by the monumental character. My paintings are obese, in your face. I’m looking for the edges of the canvas. That it pinches a little. I create a world that is also possible.”
At a very young age Serge Game liked to read comic books. “I made no distinction between the world in those comics and the existing world. For movies the same, I went all the way with it. I also had profound, almost sacred first experiences in nature, forests and heath. And even in churches. There was a kind of sacred silence that made you very aware of yourself and your thoughts. I’m not a practising Catholic, but I am raised catholic. I’m not so much looking for a divine element, but rather a mystical element to make a link between what we do here and any higher powers, things we do not understand. In that line I see my work: it is there, it exists, but why remains a mystery.”
Serge Game is an artist for 22 years. In 1994 he graduated from the Art Academy Den Bosch, which later merged with the Breda Academy to the Art Academy St. Joost. How does he experience the art world? “It is a rich life. I cannot imagine myself doing anything else. I am inclined to explore new material all the time, I do not stop at one form. It is not always easy, but I feel it is very exiting and challenging where the works bring me. And sometimes you ‘catch’ something and the images start flowing. I think few other people will experience this in that way.”