Roman Signer

Biography of Roman Signer

Roman Signer is renowned for his droll and iconic work, with its origins in land and performance art. He constructs improbable scenarios, at once witty and bizarre, which he then captures through sculpture, photography and installation. Moments, actions and ordinary experiences are objectified to raise questions about our perceptions of reality and time.


Roman Signer spent twenty years putting together a portfolio of photographs documenting snapshots from his travels: Bellowing sun loungers on a cloudy fall day in UK (Reisefotos) or steam rising from a grimy man-hole in USA (Reisefotos) draw our attention to our everyday surroundings. Humor, absurdity, bleakness, violence, chaos and order are all at play in this gracefully accumulated series of portraits of our world.


The travel photographs resonate strongly with Signer’s carefully composed work: He elaborately constructs settings and stories with everyday props, carrying out a series of performative events in the process in order to capture the final artwork in photographic or sculptural form. In his work Fliegender Tisch (Flying Table), once we register the peculiarity of a table which cannot in fact act as a table because its top is punched with holes for small motor fans, we wonder why, how, what it is for, and how it will end. The questions Signer raises are as simple as the materials he uses, but the tune in to something deeply personal and human.


Signer’s works have been defined as “time-sculptures”, for the way in which they connect to a wider narrative and confront the viewer with open-ended questions about past, present and future.

In his three-dimensional works, Signer retains all of the same features of his photography. Everyday materials are arranged into carefully orchestrated scenarios. In his work Leiter (Ladder), a pair of boots appear to climb a ladder. The seems to be nobody wearing the boots, no destination to get to, no way the boots can balance on the edge of the ladder as if under the weight of a person. As always with Roman Signer’s work, we begin to question what we see and what we know.


Roman Signer was born in Switzerland in 1938. He studied in Zurich, Lucerne and lastly at the Akademie der Künste in Warsaw, Poland, before returning to his homeland. The artist currently lives and works in St. Gallen. Signer has received numerous grants and awards, and has featured in exhibitions at the Kunsthal Aarhus in Denmark, the Middelheim Museum in Antwerp, Belgium, the Centre de la photographie in Geneva, Switzerland, the Barbican in London, England, and the China Academy of Arts in Hangzhou, China.

Available Works: 7