Arts&culture

Rogan Brown, the world in a scrap of paper

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A work born in the space where science and science fiction meet and merge.  Inspired by the narratives of scientific discovery and innovation that increasingly dominate contemporary culture, it is an attempt to visualise, understand and assimilate the invisible world of Nature. «To see a world in a grain of sand» (William Blake)

His name is Rogan Brown and he was born in the United Kingdom in 1966. He currently lives in the south of France, in Languedoc. Self-taught, he started as a teenager and became a full-time professional artist about 10 years ago.

A nature enthusiast, he says he lived for many years in a wild and remote area of France, surrounded by mountains and forests. An ideal environment for the abundance and complexity of the natural world, overwhelming in its scale and detail, hidden from our eyes but only visible at a microscopic and cellular level. And from the very beginning, paper showed itself to be the perfect material because it comes from nature and can be used in so many different ways, embodying those paradoxical qualities we see in nature: strength and delicacy, fragility and durability.

The artist uses a technique that consists of initially creating detailed drawings that are then vectorised and laser-cut onto sheets of paper. The cuts are then layered and separated by hidden card and foamboard spacers creating the illusion that each layer is floating on top of the other.

«Process and material are crucial,» says Rogan: «large hand-cut pieces are cut sheet by sheet in a scientific way with a scalpel, sometimes taking months to complete, repeating the long time-based processes that dominate nature: growth, decay and regrowth; whereas laser cutting jobs push both machine and material to the limit».

His choice of paper cutting as a vehicle for this exploration of our changing perception of nature is based on its accessibility and simplicity as a medium: «the transformation of a mundane, everyday material into something visually extraordinary parallels and echoes the radical changes in our familiar worldview that science generates».

Indeed, a recurring theme in his work is the limits of science in the face of the vast scale and complexity of nature: «the goal of science to contain and define nature is constantly subverted and fractured by the enormous volume and variety of data that must be observed, analysed and classified».

Soon in Venice

There will soon be a great opportunity to get to know his work, because Rogan Brown will participate in a major international exhibition of craft, art and design called Homo Faber Event, which will take place from 10 April to 1 May 2022 at the Giorgio Cini Foundation in Venice. Part of the exhibition is dedicated to artists who work with paper as a sculptural medium and Rogan will be exhibiting “Ghost Coral”: a sculpture that highlights the progressive bleaching and destruction of the world’s coral reefs caused by global warming; a particularly pertinent work, he adds, if we consider that Venice itself is threatened by rising sea levels caused by global warming.

So we begin a fascinating journey, both poetic and scientific, to see, as William Blake wrote, «a world in a grain of sand».