Jackson Pollock. Mark Rothgo. Marcel Duchamp. Pierre Bonnard. Those are just four of the creative minds from the avant-garde movement, defined by new and unusual ideas, shaping the inspirations for modern artist H.A. Sigg.
Seen throughout the exhibition entitled “H.A. Sigg: Abstract Rivers,” Sigg offers the viewer a snippet into his moving, abstract mind.
Born into a farming family in Switzerland in 1924, Sigg studied the arts in Zurich and later continued his studies in Paris. Coming out of the hardship of World War II, Sigg’s work encompasses the American abstract expressionist movement as it entered Europe. Sigg was invited in 1968 by Swissair to be the “artist of residence in the sky.” His work found influence through his time aboard airplanes drawing, painting and sketching the images of flight from the cockpit.
Lauren Cesiro, an adjunct professor of art history at Fairfield University, doctoral candidate at the State University of New York at Binghamton and an avid modern art enthusiast, shared a gallery talk on March 23 about Sigg’s life, his influences and his creations. Cesiro hopes that when the viewer stands in front of Sigg’s work, they “imagine themselves in motion.”
Sigg’s work carries three major themes: the river motif, drawing inspiration from moving water and distilled colors, abstract expressionism, an emotional expression captured through spontaneous movement and Swissair artist in residence in the sky, spending time within the cockpit of an airplane experiencing flight.
Rivers hold the most influence and inspiration over Sigg. A river’s gentle, meandering motion carries a mysterious spirit through the spaces it enters. Taking influence for line quality from Zen Buddhism and an Asian aesthetic, Cesiro explains that every “clear, thick, hairy brush stroke” is intentional and prominent.
The massive scale of Sigg’s work juxtaposes the minimalistic forms present on the canvas. Breaking out of the frames surrounding it, Sigg’s work expresses the inner emotions and mindset of the artist. Standing in front of a Sigg painting is never a passive experience. The viewer begins to understand the incongruous atmosphere captured by paint.
“Much of Sigg’s work operates like movies in some ways,” Cesiro explains, “So I think if you can stand there and watch the shimmering colors, and you think about him performing gestures on the canvas in the cockpit of an airplane as the Swissair artist residence in the sky, you will get so much more out of his work.”
Cesiro’s language regarding how Sigg understands color resonated with the students present at the discussion. After his professor of Irish art suggested to Chris Francabandera ’18 that he attend events in the art history realm, Francabandera and his friends joined the crowd at the exhibition. Francabandera remarked on Cesiro’s mention of Sigg’s understanding of color. “[Sigg] doesn’t use black,” Francabandera recalls, “because for him it encapsulates all the colors, and he likes to show all of them separately.”
Francabandera’s remembrance about Sigg’s perception of color is unmistakable throughout the entire exhibition; Sigg layers his colors to mimic the shimmering motion of rivers. The colors he creates oscillate for the eyes, capturing interest and motion. A hierarchy of color develops within the works with intangible colors, as Cesiro describes during the exhibition, “seeming to fall through your fingers.”
The exhibition will be on display at the Walsh Gallery in the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts until June 10.