Artist Spotlight: Anne Cecile Surga
EuropeNow Can you tell us a little about yourself and about the kind of art you create?
Anne Cecile Surga I was born in France in 1987 and graduated with a Master in Business Administration in 2010. In 2013, I graduated from the Christie’s Education Master Program in New York City. I always wanted to be part of the art world from as far as I can remember. Creation has consistently been a part of me: in my childhood I was crafting rag dolls or playing with salt dough, and in my teens I began to create with papier maché and clay. As the artist lifestyle was deemed a little bit too obscure, I went to a business school, which then allowed me to work in the art world from the managerial side.
Even though it was going well, I decided to become a full-time artist three years ago. I now live and work in the south of France, and my materials are marble and mixed media. Without a formal education in visual art, I’ve been able to discover and establish the rules myself. My art practice is the result of introspection on a universal level. I try to understand my feelings and thoughts through the prism of contemporary society, and then try to translate them into a sculpture that can connect with others.
EuropeNow What about your primary medium do you like best?
Anne Cecile Surga My primary medium is marble. My favorite is Statuario white marble from Carrara in Italy. I also work with French marble that I can easily find in the Pyrenean Mountains, where I live, and with pink Portuguese marble. I think marble is quite an unusual material for contemporary art as I feel it will always be linked to classical sculpture, but to me it is the most satisfying material I can work with. Carrara marble especially allows you to create an infinity of details with a clarity that cannot be equaled. There is also an intrinsic beauty to the material, in my opinion everything looks better in marble! It gives an ethereal feeling while being of unbelievable strength.
On the other hand, marble is not easy to work with. One must be armed with patience to remove the stone in order to reveal the form from the block. It is physically and intellectually challenging–physically, as one requires the strength to work the material, and intellectually as it is a reverse process: you take material out of the sculpture and you are not allowed to make a mistake. This emotional, intellectual, and physical challenge makes marble sculpture the most complete art form to me.
EuropeNow Can you tell us about the piece you donated for this auction?
Anne Cecile Surga The work is a bas-relief made of French black marble and Portuguese pink marble. I have been discovering the possibilities of marble and developing my artistic approach on my own in the last years. There is a predominance of anatomy in my earlier works, and I have recently explored abstraction through an organic approach. This piece could be understood as a snapshot of my recent artistic evolutions.
A recurring aspect of my work is to insert other marbles or materials on my marble pieces. I made bas-reliefs using black and white marbles, and sculptures where I mixed steel, wood, gold leaf, ribbon, or even piercing with marble. Formal beauty is important in my approach: the line, the balance, and also the finesse of execution are essential elements of my work.
EuropeNow Who has shaped your development as an artist?
Anne Cecile Surga One of most the influential people in my artistic development has been Pablo Atchugarry. Not only has he been the one to introduce me to marble cutting –from how to handle the tools to how to choose a marble bloc, or how to move these heavy stones–but he also accepted me in his artistic circle, thus allowing me to learn a lot from this world-renown artist on a daily basis. Being born in a non-artistic family, it has been eyes- and heart-opening to realize all that can be made thanks to art.
Having him as a role model teaches me so many values and life lessons. Marble does require an incredible amount of working hours and that can lead to much frustration and sometimes the will to quit, but being mentored by a passionate and hard-working individual made all the difference for me. I learned you can never work too much or be too good at your practice, but most importantly that art and all its benefices have to be shared with as many as possible. I do wish I will one day have the opportunity to make such a positive impact in a young artist’s life.
EuropeNow Do you have a favorite non-art activity that connects you to your art in a meaningful way?
Anne Cecile Surga My only hobby is the only thing in my life that is absolutely not related to art. I am an amateur boxer and I have been practicing fighting sport for 6 years. It might seem strange, but there are a lot of parallels between boxing and cutting marble. The first is obviously the need or development of strength. The first time I cut marble, I would have not been able to handle the tools if I had not had all that fighting training beforehand, I am sure of it. From a mental point of view, there is also a lot of dexterity at play, along with resilience, concentration, and the ability to keep your head cool when things are not going the way you intended.
Both in boxing and in marble cutting, one needs to master a technique in order to free oneself, and to be able to express his true self through it. The only thing that really differs is that I would compare artist life to a marathon more than to an explosive boxing competition. Last but not least, for both practices, you can only get better with time!
Anne Cecile Surga is a French sculptor working in marble and mixed media.
Lillian Klein is the programs coordinator at the Council for European Studies. She holds a B.A. in literature with a minor in religious studies from Barnard College, as well as an M.F.A. in fiction from Columbia University. Previously, Lillian assisted in the Memberships, Programs, and Awards Department at PEN America Center. She also served as a teaching fellow at Paris American Academy’s writing program for two consecutive summers.
Christie’s Education (CE) New York has entered into a collaborative partnership with the Council for European Studies at Columbia University (CES). A first joint project is a forthcoming online auction, the proceeds of which will be used to create a new scholarship to be awarded to a CES-CE applicant. The featured work in this article has been donated to the online auction, which will take place in December 2017.
Photo: Anne Cecile Surga, Private
Published on August 4, 2017.