Fine Jewels and the Surreal Collages of Sammy Slabbinck

By Sotheby's
Dover Street Market commissioned contemporary artist Sammy Slabbinck to create artworks for an exhibition of Sotheby's fine jewels at its Haymarket Store. The jewels will go on sale in Sotheby's Fine Jewels sale on 11 December. We spoke to Sammy to find out more about his work and inspiration.

Sothebys: What drives you to make art?

Sammy Slabbinck: That’s a difficult question. It’s just a drive I have to create images. I can feel uncomfortable with myself when a few days go by and I haven’t created something. It’s an urge from inside my brain I guess.

Ruby and Sapphire Ring . Estimate £2,400–4,000. Artwork © Sammy Slabbinck, courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.

When did you start making art, and how did your methods develop?

I started making collages in 2012. Before that I worked in art galleries and had my own gallery for 3 years. I started experimenting with collages because I have always been fond of vintage imagery. My methods haven’t changed much. I go through my collection of magazines, collect clippings and when an image has triggered my imagination I try to construct a visual story. But I do think that the more you practice the better you get at it — I hope so anyway!

Tourmaline And Diamond Brooch. Estimate £4,000–6,000. Artwork © Sammy Slabbinck, courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery.

Which artists had the greatest influence on you when you began making art, and do the same artists still influence you today?

I have always been a big fan of Pop Art (Warhol, Lichtenstein, Wesselmann etc.) To me what they where doing seemed like rock ‘n roll on canvas. I think the principles and aesthetics of Pop Art still have an impact on my work and how I create but it’s probably more on a subconscious level.

How do you decide on a new piece and the elements that it will be composed of, is there a thematic connection between them in the creative process?

It all starts with finding interesting pictures while going through vintage magazines and books. Pictures that have potential, an untold story. I never really set out to make something with a fixed idea in my head. Most collages are made via association, a picture can set a mood and then I try to complete the visual puzzle. I prefer stories in my collages, not just ‘pretty’ compositions. Thematically they can go in all directions but the compositions almost always end up in a surreal world.

Diamond Bangle, Buccellati . Estimate £2,400–3,800. Artwork © Sammy Slabbinck, courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery

What is the significance of your use of collage ?

I like the collage technique because I like working with vintage pictures and that there are no real rules. Anything is possible as long as it’s a solid composition.

Has your approach to art evolved in the time you’ve been working?

The longer you have been creating the more things you have seen and tried out. So the goal is always to find new original approaches and not to copy your self or others. Trying to come up with new original ideas is a day-to-day challenge and drives me to become better at what I do.

Tell us more about the significance of surrealism as it appears in your work.

The collage technique is very closely linked to surrealism.
The basic rules of reality and logic don’t apply when you start mixing up images. You can create a whole different world, create your own rules and imaginary settings which I have always found very liberating and challenging to my creativity.

Your works often include perspectives of the body, or bodies as landscapes, could you tell us more about this?

The female form has been an inspiration for many generations of artists.
I am no exception. I live to elevate the pictures that I find in vintage men’s magazines to another level. A nude picture from the seventies for example, lacking style or class, can suddenly be transformed into a sculpture when put in the right setting. I am not really interested in the pure depiction of beauty or nudity. It’s only when you add certain elements or give the body another function that the overall image can become intriguing. Sometimes showing less makes you see more.

Tell us more about the work you’ve created for the collaboration between Sotheby’s and Dover Street Market, was this an unusual project for you?

First of all it was an honor to work for these two renowned brands.
It was kind of a tricky assignment because you want to serve the beauty of the jewelry that is on display. So I tried to keep the focus on the pieces but also add a little twist of my own. I hope people will enjoy the works as much I as have enjoyed making them.

CLICK HERE to view Sotheby's Fine Jewels sale catalogue.

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