10 things about: French wire sculptor Matthieu Robert-Ortis

Picture by K.E. Ooi
Picture by K.E. Ooi

GEORGE TOWN, Aug 14 — Wire sculptures are a common medium used by an increasing number of artists but there is nothing quite like the unique wire art by Matthieu Robert-Ortis.

The French sculptor, who only started showing his work three years ago, creates wire sculptures that are what he called,  anamorphose or metamorphose.

Unlike normal wire sculptures, his works appear to look like an animal at one angle and morphs into another animal at another angle.

The 26-year-old has had more than 84 million Facebook views of his most popular work The Revolution of Giraffes which is a sculpture of an elephant from one side and two giraffes from another.

He was in Penang recently to install two of his wire sculptures in conjunction with George Town Festival at Dewan Sri Pinang.

His works, The Revolution of Giraffes and The King of Drones, will be on display during performance evenings at Dewan Sri Pinang. The Revolution of Giraffes is sponsored by George Town Heritage Hotels.

Here, the artist shares his art journey from rapper to sculptor.

In his own words:

I started going into sculpture after art school in Lyon. I stopped my art school after two years because the art they teach is conceptual and I don’t like the way it was taught. It was so conceptual that you can put a cup on a table and stare at it for three hours and the professor is okay with it. It was complicated for a young teenager like me. So I stopped.

I started out with drawing and painting. I did pen drawing and animation. I like drawing big complicated, detailed cities. I once drew a picture for three years...I finished it in five years, it is because it has a special perspective.

I love working with special perspective. I love to see things from a different perspective and I like to see something in a different way. I still draw and paint now. It is serious work for me but it is not something I do for exhibitions. I paint mostly for myself. It’s for me, like a hobby.

When I was small, I was interested in sports I played the piano and guitar and I love rock climbing and slacklining. Slacklining is a popular sport in France, Germany and Spain. It is a young sport and many people are doing it there. I was a rapper but then I found art to be mysterious. I find art a mystery and I wanted to learn more about it, I wanted to know why and how people create art. So, I went to take the preparation in art in Paris when I was 20 and then after that I went to the art school in Lyon.

Although I still draw, I love to sculpt. Sculpting is my medium and I like to create anamorphose and metamorphose. Anamorphose is a figuration and abstraction and metamorphose is a figuration, abstraction and figuration. The artists that inspired me are George Rousse, Felice Varini and Markus Raets.

My first sculpture was made from the trolley from a supermarket. When we take a trolley from the supermarket, we need to put €1 in the slot to take it. Now, that €1 is in my signature. When I put MRO as my signature on my sculptures, I replace the O with a €1. The money is a symbol for me that I got the metal from a trolley from a supermarket. It is also a symbol of the financial problems faced by artists and the arts.

I used to make small pieces, some are my own face. My mother saw one of it and she went, “Oh that’s my son” and asked me to give it to her. So I gave it to her. She displayed it at home so when a friend saw the sculpture, she told me that I could have an exhibition of my sculptures. So I listened to her and she helped arrange an exhibition of my work. That was three years ago. Here I am today.

I have now created about 42 wire sculptures of 30 anamorphose and 12 metamorphose. I have made the man-crab, elephant-giraffe, octopus-kangaroo and drone-eagles. I started making the metaphorphose only about nine months ago, some are larger pieces and some are smaller pieces. Each piece will have a number on the pedestal. I usually make a small prototype first and if I like the piece, I can create a big piece. From drawing, creation to finishing, it takes about one month or two months to create a big piece. It will take between two to three weeks to create a small piece but it also depends on what sculpture it is.

My creations are mostly made from my imagination. If I want to make something, I create it as I was doodling on my notebook. One day, I will be drawing, doodling on a pad and if I saw something I like, then I will think of how to create it. I will envision how to create it and that’s where challenge comes it. I see it as a challenge to start creating something from something I envisioned.

I can also make colourful wire sculptures. I have a piece with many colours, it’s material on metal with brilliant colours. In these past three years, I’ve done seven exhibitions. I did not expect to become so successful. I started art because I wanted the experience. I want to make a living as an artist but most importantly, I also take it as a challenge. Now, Tim Burton wants me to create a piece for his movie in September. After this, I will go back to France and create the piece for Tim Burton.