As a phoenix rises from the ashes, creation out of destruction, order from chaos, so too does Simon Berger’s work. An artist who works in portraiture, but with an artistic medium that defies explanation - glass.
Usually when we look at artists working with glass, it’s some kind of sculpture. Moulded in the furnace, the raw materials manipulated into incredible shapes. Berger does manipulate glass, but in a completely different way. Instead of making, the Swiss artist is breaking.
Trained as a carpenter from school in a fairly rural part of Switzerland, Berger knew his way around a hammer before he decided to start smashing up shop windows. ‘Smashing’ might be a reach, though. It is glass that he’s working on after all. His touch is deft, exact and exquisite. The process unfolds like millions of minute glassy spiders splaying across a perfect piece of the transparent material. Up close, it doesn’t look like much - until you take a step back.
It’s difficult to completely comprehend that what you’re seeing at a distance is the same thing as you see close up. Berger’s portraits are highly detailed, emotive and expressive, capturing the mood of the subject through his clever interpretation of the interplay of light. Faces have always been his thing since his entry into street art at the same time as he worked in carpentry.
However, it is when he chose to put them on glass that his star began to shine. It is one of the most unique styles in street art, a fact the artist never shies away from. Still, this is no one trick pony. Berger creates his portraits on other mediums like wood and sheet metal, similarly scoring the surface with his craftsman’s tools, a chaotic expression of applied knowledge.
Perhaps even more remarkable than the finished product is the process. It’s mesmerizing to see him move around the surface, referencing his source material (be it a print-out or a photo on his phone) and striking the glass with a trepidation where - despite it being reinforced glass - is liable to go wrong. He can choose the spot to strike, the power of the swing and then leave the rest to fate. He’s almost grappling with the very principles of fate and free will.
Naturally, when his work emerged in the public eye, he encapsulated the kind of curiosity that the very best of art should. Not only that, but he has managed to appeal to an audience beyond those who would usually be interested in art. His living pieces, reflecting and refracting light across its various shapes and through the prisms of light, can glisten in the sun, shifting with the viewer.
Berger has explored glass thus far, but will be required to do so in more depth, pushing the material to breaking point as he continues to develop his idiosyncratic visual language. Going by his recent exhibitions, that is exactly what he plans to do.
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