Capturing a moment in glacier history: British artist Sevan Garo Nigogosian brings together man and glacier in his one-off wearable sculptures
Glaciers and the Anthropocene
In 2014 after finishing art school in London, Nigogosian was invited to participate in a group show at Billytown, an artist-run-gallery in The Hague, Netherlands. The exhibition was titled Your engagement has consequences, to which Nigogosian felt inclined to respond with the presentation of abstract sculptural pieces inspired and literally formed by glaciers.
The artist traveled to the French Alps to experiment with taking a mold from a glacier, to which many doubted the realistic practicality of the task. After setting the first mold on the glacier Mer de Glace, the artist was successful. Twenty-four hours after setting, the mold took shape and captured a moment of the glacier’s form, an organic shape in constant mutation due to man’s creation of the Anthropocene and as a consequence, climate change.
Millenia in the making, the glaciers contribute their unique forms to the artist’s mold. The molding procedure emits no heat, leaves no trace, and does no damage to the glacier. Nigogosian’s works motivate a dialogue on our relationship with not only glaciers and the natural environment in our immediate surroundings, but also the respect these spaces deserve. Sevan Garo Nigogosian is based in South Wales and Chamonix, in the French Alps.
Lampoon: Garogosi, Sevan Garo Nigogosian
On the opening night of the exhibition at Billytown, one of the large sculptures fell to the floor and smashed, breaking into numerous smaller pieces. Instead of anger and frustration at the destroyed artwork, for the artist this moment was a turning point in his practice and a step towards creating pieces that could be worn on the body as jewelry.
He realized that these pieces could reveal an intimacy when worn, instead of hanging on the white walls of a gallery. By becoming jewelry, the glacier is instantly closer to the wearer, perhaps even becoming a reminder, and promoting further discussion on the topic of climate change and its imminent consequences.
«From the beginning I knew that having a conversation is always key to inform, learn and develop, no matter the topic and I hope that each piece can start as a conversation about how the environment is crucial for our existence and how we all have a role to play in the climate crisis» says Nigogosian. The artist’s close bond with the glacier is fundamental to his practice.
«The process starts with a long hike up to a Glacier, usually a few hours to accessible ones, up to half a day to the more remote ones. Then I tend to spend the night on the Glacier while the mold sets. Hearing the sounds the Glacier makes at night is terrifying yet a grounding experience. Once I’m back at the studio the casting process is relatively quick. Usually around two full days for a ring and maybe a full day for a necklace».
Over the past six years, Nigogosian has developed his artisanal skills, evident in the pieces themselves as they have evolved in unison to the growth of the artist’s confidence working with metals and the glacial forms.
«I’ve become bolder in what I make, much bigger heavier rings with more glacier detail. Yet, the concept and my business ethos are still rooted in creating something linked to the landscape. During the past year, I’ve become more conscious of how my items fit into the connection we all have for being outdoors and I imagine that my pieces provide a little bit of that connection that we’ve lost».
Jewels from glaciers
Glaciers are overwhelming natural phenomena which cover ten percent of the planet’s surface, yet continue to move and melt at an alarming rate, with some even at a speed of one meter per day.
Nigogosian has taken molds in the French and Italian Alps, Iceland and plans to visit other Glaciers once travel is permitted again. Each of GAROGOSI’s pieces, enclosed in sustainable and low-waste packaging, come with coordinates with the exact location where the mold was taken, in years to come, making it possible to relocate a moment in the glacier’s history.
The pieces become a means of documentation of the natural landscape, an environment which in the course of a man’s lifetime will already have a different form. Nigogosian is an advocate of involving the wearer within the creative process when possible, «Once I took the work out of the gallery I didn’t want to lose that connection with others so I started inviting people to a molding session. I would take couples up onto the Glacier to choose where they wanted their rings to come from. Typically you just go to the jewelry shop and pick out a ring that’s been made a thousand times, whereas my work is symbolic of the unique bond between a couple».
Last year Nigogosian collaborated with mountaineer Kenton Cool in the creation of his latest collection: Everest. Nigogosian instructed Cool on how to set the mold at the Everest base camp and the Khumbu icefall during the climber’s fourteenth summit of Everest.
The final piece is a reminder of the mountain’s fragility, often taken for granted and seen as the ultimate goal for a climber, yet its form must be preserved and respected. Nigogosian’s artistic research is dedicated to his jewelry practice, yet as a multidisciplinary artist he continues to explore and investigate with other mediums.
«Every day starts with drawing no matter what, to get the eye in gear. Photography has always been an underlying art form throughout my career and continues to inform the compositional aspects of my rings. I’m currently working on large sculptures and paintings using Glacier Flour from the French and Swiss Alps. The flour is made from the slow grinding of bedrock from glacial abrasion».
GAROGOSI demonstrates how it is possible to develop a practice which promotes sustainability and consumer responsibility within a creative field. Consumer decisions continue to have an impact on our ecosystem as a whole, setting an example for future generations in expecting higher standards and asking for more from brands.
Sevan Garo Nigogosian
Born in London, 1986, he’s a multidisciplinary artist who lives and works between South Wales and Chamonix. Nigogosian studied Fine and Studio Arts at Cardiff University, followed by a Master’s Degree in Fine Art and Design with PGCert in Higher Education at Kingston University, London, graduating in 2015. The GAROGOSI collections include Everest, Anglesey Hearts, Mer de Glace, Glacier des Bossons. Nigogosian has presented his jewelry brand at a TEDx talk in Chamonix in 2018.