Shawn Sawyer: "Art is supposed to get emotions out of people"

May 12, 2017
By Reut Golinsky
Photo © Reut Golinsky

Shawn Sawyer might not have had the most impressive record from his competitive years but he certainly always stood out and was loved by skating fans. After his retirement from competitive skating in 2011 he continued to pursue his artistic career both on ice as a professional skater and off ice as a painter. We met in Zurich where he was taking part in the "Art on Ice" tour and caught up with his recent activities and his future plans.

It's your second time with "Art on Ice". How were you invited?

I've always wanted to be part of this show, and I knew a lot of skaters that had done this show before, so I asked them about how to get in. One day I just got an e-mail and I accepted right away, I didn't even think about it. I'm happy to be here for the second time. It's a great show and I'm glad to be a part of it.

Tell us more about the character you portray in this year's show.

I'm The Mad Conductor, which is a pretty big solo part and I'm really happy with it. We worked really hard to make the best show possible, we have a lot of skaters on the ice for a lot of time, and I'm happy with the result.

For a few years now you've also been part of the "Stars on Ice" cast. How would you compare these two shows?

Oh my God, every skating show is so different! In "Stars on Ice" you're really part of a family and in "Art on Ice" you're part of an even bigger family, because there are acrobats, clowns, there are different artists, there are singers, so you just feel part of a very big family.

Talking about acrobats on your Facebook page, you posted a video of yourself trying some acrobatic moves. Are you trying to broaden your repertoire?

Absolutely! I'm working on my acrobatic skills because I maybe will be in the cast of the upcoming tour with "Cirque du Soleil". Maybe, we'll see. I've been working really hard.

Wow, it sounds like a dream come true!

Yes, from "Stars on ice" to "Art on Ice" to hopefully "Cirque du Soleil". It will be outstanding!

So they needed an acrobat and a skater?

Exactly! And even better - acrobat-skater.

So when will you know for sure that you're in?

This summer, when we start the production.

Wow, good luck, is the name of the show still a secret?

It was a secret until two days ago. (smiles) It's "Quartz".

One of the relatively recent interviews I read about you was not about your skating but about your paintings, and not just paintings, but paintings with unusual mediums - coffee and wine. How is this project doing right now?

Now I'm selling a lot, I'm selling internationally; I had pieces in New York, Paris, in Los Angeles.

Did you get any feedback from art critics?

You know, it's art, some people love it, some people hate it. But it's art, it's supposed to get emotions out of people. And whenever I'm home, it's the first thing that I do, I go in my studio and I paint.

You sound very busy. Do you have time to follow the figure skating competitions?

Oh, definitely!

What was the last competition you watched?

European championships.

And what were your highlights?

I'm very happy Carolina Kostner is back, she is a true woman on ice, I love her artistry, she brings something special, I'm very glad about that. Javier Fernandez, he is one of my favourite male skaters at the moment, he is getting the job done and he is going to be a very big contender for the next year's Olympics. And, of course, Aljona and Bruno, I adore them!

There is a division between the more artistic skaters and the technical skaters. You were definitely the former when you competed. What do you think about this "quad craziness" which is going on now?

Right now it's a flavour of the moment, they are getting the points right now, but what they have to think about is how long they are going to have a career. Quads are very hard on your body. And I'd rather see skaters like Carolina Kostner having long careers than skaters who have two years and then gone...

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