Q&A: Roger Coll
After studying Architecture, Sculpture and Ceramics and having spent several years working in an architecture studio in Barcelona, Roger Coll established his first ceramic studio and workshop in Barcelona in 2009. In 2014 he moved to Vic where he now lives and works.
He strives to make people appreciate ceramic objects and sculptures and believes that working in ceramics is a captivating form of art with the potential to unleash creativity.
Prefering to allow the work itself to do the talking, we feel very luckily to have been able to put the following 10 questions to Roger in a rare interview with the artist:
What first drew you to ceramic as a medium?
R: I think it is because I come from a family of farmers (both my grandfathers). I used to spend a lot of time during my childhood on a farm playing with earth, stones, branches, mixing everything with water, building tents etc. and I developed an early interest in materials and building things with them. It was not after some years when I had already started at university that I felt the need to go back to that feeling and decided to start going to ceramic classes on Saturday mornings.
How did the transition from working in an architecture studio to setting up your own ceramic studio happen?
R: This is almost a 10 years jump from those early days with ceramics because it really took me a while to make that decision. During this long period I also studied sculpture at an art and design school in Barcelona. After some years going twice a week to that first private ceramic school I thought I would enroll in an official art and design school to go and study ceramics Monday to Friday part time. While I was doing the admission test I realised that it was sculpture what I was really interested in. So that is what I went for, sculpture. As the years went by I also studied ceramics and just lost a bit of interest in architecture as a profession because all I could think of all the time was sculpture and ceramics. And it really made me happy. Then I was lucky to get a scholarship to go to Finland for some months to work with a sculptor as an assistant, and this is when I decided to quit my job and set up my studio once I got back from Helsinki.
How would you say your Architecture background has influenced your work?
R: A lot! Not only because when working in architecture you have to think a lot about materials, their characteristics, how they behave etc. but also the construction side of it. Most of my sculptures are “constructed”, not modelled or carved for example. When going to construction sites I would collect all sorts of small objects, foams, wires, anything that looked sculptural to me. I still have them, it´s what I call my treasure. In my works I use segments that I put together to create the final shape. The same way you use bricks to build a wall I guess. The use of a repeated element to create something that is unique still fascinates me. This repetition element is very important in my work. If I had not studied architecture the works I´ve done would have been completely different.
In my works I use segments that I put together to create the final shape. The same way you use bricks to build a wall I guess. The use of a repeated element to create something that is unique still fascinates me. This repetition element is very important in my work. If I had not studied architecture the works I´ve done would have been completely different.
Where does the inspiration for your use of colour in your work come from?
R: I like to think that we all have our artistic language, or at least we try to find it. In my case every single sculpture I make is part of my own language that I´m developing. Each sculpture is like a word that helps to define it. If I were good with words or rhythm I´d be a writer or a musician but I´m not, so I use another way to express myself. In that sense, if the works are like words of my own language then terms like scale, texture or colour are elements that help setting the tone and sending the message. Having said that, the use of colour is not rational but intuitive. Sometimes I just feel a certain work needs that colour and not other. But I can´t explain why.
I like to think that we all have our artistic language, or at least we try to find it. In my case every single sculpture I make is part of my own language that I´m developing. Each sculpture is like a word that helps to define it.
How do you decide when a form works? What are you looking for in a final piece?
R: I never start a piece knowing how it will look like. I like making decisions as the form grows. If everything was planned from the beginning it would be too boring or I could hand the job to somebody else and this is not the way I work. It is difficult to explain when a piece is finished, I just know it. I hate describing it like this but it´s true that in a way it has to transmit something to me. Sometimes is the form, or the scale, the empty spaces in it, the gesture…
Have you had to develop particular processes to enable clay to create these forms?
R: I´ve had to understand how the material behaves, especially while drying, because I work with quite thin walls and that means that the pieces are very fragile while being built. Other than that my main technique is slipcasting and I use it in a traditional or typical way.
You have recently begun adding rods into your forms, where did this development come from?
R: It has to do again with this language thing. At some point I felt that I had to give them something to embrace, as if this rod was the reason why they are moving like they do. It is also a way to enrich the vocabulary, because I can contrast textures and colours in the same piece.
Which artist would you say is your biggest influence?
R: Without a doubt Richard Deacon. I just love the way in which he uses materials and he creates with them. And the fact that his work is not rational or can´t be explained in a rational way. It´s more like a guts thing not coming from the brain. Whenever I have to explain that, I compare it to when you feel attracted to somebody. It´s an animal instinct more than a rational thinking. And this applies to most of the art I like.
What are you most proud of within your achievements so far?
R: I´m bad at this but one thing I´m proud of is choosing clay as my main material more than 10 years ago when it was not so well valued or respected, at least in Bcn.
one thing I´m proud of is choosing clay as my main material more than 10 years ago when it was not so well valued or respected, at least in Bcn.
What would you like to see next for your work?
R: A change of scale probably! But also last summer at the International Ceramics Centre in Hungary I played a bit with the extruder and I have some ideas for a constructing method that I´d love to develop in the future.