Inspired by the human form, Swiss-born artist Roger Reutimann found his way to sculpting for the rich and the royal via a classical music education, curating art fairs, and product design.
Roger Reutimann captures elegant sensuality in his sculptures of human figures. Born in a secluded village in Switzerland, the artist, a self-proclaimed Renaissance man, has devoted himself to pursuing and mastering many art forms. His evolution from classical pianist to figurative realism painter to internationally known sculptor has secured his place as one of America’s most sought-after contemporary artists.
As a young pianist, he found himself drawn to classical composers and music that stirred his soul. He studied at the Zurich Music Conservatory and was soon performing as a classical concert pianist throughout Europe and competing in international piano competitions. Traveling provided artistic influences at an early age as he experienced Europe’s rich cultural heritage.
His love of music flowed into a career as both a realist figurative painter and a co-owner in the Forum International Art Fairs in Zürich, Hamburg, and Düsseldorf. Galleries in Zürich, Milan, and London represented his paintings, and he received innumerable awards, honors, and recognitions. Relationships with gallery owners and collectors worldwide would follow him into his future calling as a sculptor and continue to advance his reputation as a world-class artist.
The Renaissance man emerged again as Reutimann turned his creativity to remodeling his first American home in Miami, Florida, with distinctive and extensive flourishes, from mosaic tiles to stained glass windows and Tudor-style ornamental plaster ceilings. The spectacular manor has been featured in architecture magazines and leased by production companies for films and commercials.
“In the midst of remodeling the house, one day I took a sculpture class to fill the time and loved it so much I gave up painting right then. To me, sculpting is like painting a thousand paintings. It has another dimension, and, therefore, it is so much more real than a two-dimensional image. A painting is only an image of life, but sculpture is life,” says Reutimann.
“To me, sculpting is like painting a thousand paintings… A painting is only an image of life, but sculpture is life.”
Coming to Colorado
Reutimann’s love of the mountains prompted a move to Boulder, Colorado, because of its similarity to Switzerland and the expansive open spaces. “I would rather sit on my back porch watching the sun set over the Rocky Mountains than in a high-rise flat in New York City,” shares Reutimann, for whom Colorado evokes memories of his native country.
Reutimann’s sculptures are unparalleled in craftsmanship and instantly recognizable worldwide. Though earlier works are relatively small, many today tower several meters high. Small sculptures weigh nearly 200 pounds, and the six- to seven-foot-high (up to two-plus-meters) sculptures weigh in at 1,600 to 1,800 pounds (726 to 816 kilograms). The internal structures of the lifelike sculptures are a complex network with steel beams for support to withstand the elements.
Art galleries and private dealers from Santa Fe to New York City have represented Reutimann’s work, and his sleek, caressable, sculptures have been carefully packed and shipped to England, Switzerland, Italy, France, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, and South America. Today, he is represented by fewer galleries to ensure exclusivity for art patrons with his limited edition releases. Collectors include Sir Elton John, Anderson Cooper, countless private and corporate collectors worldwide, and Italian author Baroness Lucrezia de Domizio Durini, an art collector, curator, and publisher. “I see parallels between Rachmaninoff and my art. Rachmaninoff was a Russian composer and considered one of the finest pianists of all time. My art is much like music; there’s always something that can be refined,” says Reutimann. His recently completed commission for Colorado’s Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities is a sixteen-foot (nearly five-meter) sculpture named Common Unity. It reflects the art center’s nature by presenting two identical figures who might appear to be engaged in a cultural discourse.
“My inspiration is the human figure, but the interpretation of it is somewhat abstract and reduced to the essential elements which help tell a story. The source of my work comes from the human body; people are drawn to that, I suppose, because we all have one. We can all relate to it in some way,” explains Reutimann. His fifteen-piece series, Dreams, was inspired by a wax mold that melted in Colorado’s hot sun and further inspired him to create sculptures that appear human at first glance, yet abstract from other angles.
“The source of my work comes from the human body; people are drawn to that, I suppose, because we all have one.”
Body / art
The immensely popular Dreams series is a surreal interpretation of human emotions as figures fling themselves into contorted poses and postures—often reminiscent of a melted-wax figure. Reutimann has placed heads, torsos, and arms backward creating a jarring, disturbing effect that evokes a strong, visceral response for the viewer. He juxtaposes nearly perfect, yet severely distorted bodies as if broken and reassembled incorrectly. Body parts erupt in every direction. Figures hang upside down, suspended or cantilevered in space, as if falling or floating. Cast entirely in sleek stainless steel, the homogenous heads of the sculptures lack facial features and expressions, much like mannequins. “The focus is directed away from the face toward the body, and the complex dreamlike state personified within,” Reutimann offers.
In a world where discerning art patrons purchase paintings ten-to-one over sculptures, Nick Ryan, Havu Gallery’s administrator, notes that long-time painting collectors are purchasing Reutimann’s unusual and evocative figures. Ryan says they choose Reutimann’s work based on his inimitable technique of combining abstract realism with figuration, particularly in the Death of Venus, a six-foot (almost two-meter) sculpture painstakingly cast in bronze with surfaces flawlessly covered with sleek Ferrari-red automotive paint. Death of Venus is Reutimann’s interpretation of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. The spectral skull is representative of cultural shifts, and the highly saturated red paint reflects the glamour and lifestyles of modern society.
The Perception series was inspired by the artist’s visit to Egypt, and the entire series is cast in stainless steel, painted with automotive paint and buffed to a mirrorlike shine. “In keeping with abstract realism, the concept of the sculpture is about the duality of good and evil. The good has an angelic appeal and the evil has a darker character, wearing a cape with the head tucked in. My belief is that we all have these characteristics, and one can’t exist without the other,” Reutimann says.
“In keeping with abstract realism, the concept of the sculpture is about the duality of good and evil… We all have these characteristics and one can’t exist without the other.”
Reutimann’s fascination with automotive paint allows him innovations in the aesthetics of his creations. Automotive finishes require multiple paint layers buffed to a supersmooth polish until they shimmer and mirror one’s own reflection. The contemporary finish is extremely durable and lasts decades outdoors with only occasional buffing, whereas a traditional bronze sculpture with patina requires constant maintenance.
“My latest series is inspired by 1950s American automobiles. The fifties were all about space and speed and The Jetsons! The fantasy in concept cars goes wild; there are no limits, as there are none in art. The human body is much like a beautiful car—streamlined, organic, flowing like a dolphin in water—they’re imaginative. These sculptures have the shape of a woman but the spirit of a concept car. People see what they see and maybe it’s not my vision, which is perfectly fine. If someone is drawn to a sculpture, it’s a reflection of themselves and what their nature is, not that of the artist,” Reutimann says.
“These sculptures have the shape of a woman but the spirit of a concept car.”
The music man
Reutimann plays piano several hours daily and declares classical music to be his biggest inspiration due to its drama and emotional depth, which allow him to follow his moods. Sergei Prokofiev’s compositions were on tap the entire year Reutimann spent creating the sculptures for the Dreams series. “You need to be in a spiritual place when you create sculptures. When people talk about inspiration, what they really mean is ‘being in spirit’ so art is not a conscious act,” Reutimann points out. “You can’t learn to be inspired. Music is my subconscious inspiration.” △
“When people talk about inspiration, what they really mean is ‘being in spirit’ so art is not a conscious act. You can’t learn to be inspired.”