Human and Animal Innards Expose Themselves in These Surgical Sculptures

Biological sculptor Olivier de Sagazan explores the borderlands between life and death in his bisected works.

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Jun 23 2017, 10:32pm

Sculptures of human and animal bodies expose their viscera in the work of French artist Olivier de Sagazan. When he isn't applying layers of paint and clay to warp and transfigure his own face and body, he's basically a surgeon: in one sculpture, de Sagazan slices a human sculpture in half from top to bottom, and in another he hangs a gutted pig from a wooden post, as if to bleed the body and roast it over open flame. This body of work is born of biological curiosity, not a fascination with death and annihilation, or a fixation with the grotesque like Colin Christian's fleshy sculptures or Jonathan Payne's gruesome and freakish human body parts.

De Sagazan tells Creators that he has no formal training in art. Instead, he studied biology; and, in his mind, he is always trying to understand life. In the 90s, de Sagazan started painting, and sculpture came a few years later to, as he puts it, get closer to our world.

Recently, de Sagazan found a new material for his biological sculptures—a mortar made of clay and grass. Sagan believes this combination of materials strangely evokes the look and texture of flesh, tendons, and muscles that wind their way through human and animal bodies.

"I am with it as with a body that I knead, tend to, and open—I mobilize it as I do with my own body and it is fascinating," says de Sagazan. He sees in this work similarities with his performance Transfiguration, where he literally emerges from the earth covered in clay, and where performs without sight, as his eyes are covered over with clay. As he sees it, the artist must put his or her body into the struggle.

"I try to understand what makes an inert and blind matter become a living and seeing matter," says de Sagazan. "This question is the same with the problem of giving life to a sculpture. What causes make a fetish active and charged—that is, emit a power to act on my brain?"

Like a surgeon, de Sagazan opens his sculptures to understand how it works. For him, sculpting a body into a corpse is like questioning the trace of what makes it alive.

"One way to put it is that I don't succeed in capturing life and that it is a way be more truthful by represent what was living," he says. "Therefore, with these representations, what interests me is trying to capture the process of living things, so my work is all, but certainly not morbid."

Click here to see more of Olivier de Sagazan's work.

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