The artwork of Miguel Chevalier, a pioneer in the contemporary virtual art, is capable of visually impacting everyone who stares at it due to the use of colour and the graphic art, the interactivity with the public and its location.
Miguel Chevalier was born in Mexico in 1959. He studied Fine Arts in Paris in the early 80s. Since the beginning of his career, he was sure that he wanted to create art with the computer, a luxury tool hardly accessible at those times. Thanks to the computer, his means of expression in the plastic arts, he excels in creating spectacular virtual-reality installations. For all that, Horse Magazine has decided to appoint Miguel Chevalier as the artist who best relates to September’s theme: visual impact.
In the early 80s there was no training or education focused on computers in the schools of Fine Arts in Paris. Perseverance was really needed to get access to computers, because they only were in the scientific laboratories. My first years were very difficult, we were self-taught, we had to be visionaries and, in fact, a bit crazy for wanting to create art with computers.
Since 1978, Miguel Chevalier has focused on computers as his tools of artistic expression
Few artists persevered in this direction. Besides, the opportunities for marketing and dissemination of these creations were almost nonexistent. Nowadays, access to these tools is much easier and, since 2006, the appearance of smartphones and the omnipresent accessibility to Internet have helped to significantly change mentalities.
‘La Vague des Pixels’
You usually say that artists use the tools available in their times, and that this is the reason why you focused your career on virtual and digital art. In which artistic discipline do you think you would have worked if you were born in the past decade?
If I were born in other times, I believe I’d have been attracted to the new tools of that time, like photography or video, which were used by the avant-garde artists at the end of XIX or XX centuries.
Looking back, what do you see in your artwork from the 80s and 90s?
My artwork from the 80s and 90s already analysed the relationship between nature and device, like my series about botanical greenhouses. They were the novelties that I still develop every day, for instance in “Ultra-Nature”.
How would you explain the creative process you follow when starting each project?
Every new project I implement is a long process. First of all, the first sketches on paper and photographs have to be prepared, they give us the direction. Then, the plan I imagine develops gradually for 1 or 2 years with my computer-expert colleagues, Cyril Henry and Claude Micheli, who write the programme in C++. It’s a dialogue between us that also gets polished progressively with my assistant Nicolas Gaudelet. After that, I perform lots of trials in my studio before showing this new collection/software to the public.
Some of your works, like “Fractal Flowers”, examine in a poetic and metaphorical manner the relationship between nature and device. In your opinion, what is the meaning of these two words?
Nowadays, many of the vegetables and fruits we eat are cultivated in greenhouses in an artificial way, each day we control nature more and more. In my opinion, art is the reflection of society.
These flowers of Miguel Chevalier are a way of expressing the virtual and interactive reality of the plant kingdom in 3D. The fractal flowers have different sizes, colours and shapes. They’ve been created by virtual and independent seeds that grow, fade and react to people by interacting with the performances of human art and music or with the visitors that are transported to a magical world, in the heart of a mysterious virtual garden.
The 3D printing is managing to blur the limits between the virtual and the real. Could you tell us more about its possibilities in the artistic field?
Through my generative software we can objectify this virtual universe thanks to 3D printers. The written algorithm becomes a 3D sculpture.
Do you believe that the future of art lies in the interactivity?
No, I don’t think interactivity is the future of art, but it’s one of the most important components of the digital art.
Should the contemporary art be something multi-sensory?
I don’t think that the contemporary art must be necessarily multi-sensory, but it’s an aspect of my investigation which I’m particularly interested in because it keeps all our senses alert.
In the project Power Pixels you used screens, paintings and sculptures, always from the visual and virtual point of view. Do you consider developing other projects of this type in the near future?
Yes, I do. I like holding exhibitions with artworks of different scales, static, 3D-printed sculptures, or that operate in movement on LCD screens with the idea of mixing the virtual and the real. I’m going to hold an important exhibition in this spirit by early December during the Art Basel Miami in the Lelia Mordoch gallery.
The digital trompe l’oeil and the virtual editing have reached the opera, with the representation of The Magic Flute in Liceu (Barcelona), by Barrie Kosky and Suzanne Andrade, being the last example. Have you made any incursion as such? What do you think about this interaction between artistic disciplines?
I haven’t had the opportunity to work with an opera of that kind, but I’d love to have a similar assignment in the future. In 2013, I proposed the creation of a new major event in the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City. The idea was to create an outdoor show with a singer whose voice tones would allow me to interact with my virtual universe behind her. Unfortunately, the project wasn’t approved…
“The multi-sensory contemporary art is an aspect which I’m particularly interested in because it keeps all our senses alert”
Some years ago you created an original artwork for Hermès, 8 Ties. Since then, have you maintained any other connection with the fashion world? Would you like to work with someone in particular?
Yes, I have maintained contact and worked with other brands, not necessarily related to fashion, but they were indeed luxury brands. They were specific works for the 250th anniversary of the Vacheron Constantin watches and the Perriet Jouët champagnes.
I’d love to collaborate with the fashion designer Iris van Herpen who, for many years, is revolutionizing the fashion business with amazing and exclusive clothes printed in 3D. I imagine myself creating a new collection of artistic clothes with her.
Eternal Legacy para Vacheron Constantin (2015) Hong Kong
How long did it take you to develop the “Eternal Legacy”, “Origin World” and “Fractal Flowers” projects?
It took me 7 months to develop “Eternal Legacy”, Vacheron Constantin. For the software of “Origin World”, the computer expert Cyrille Henry and I needed 18 months because it was more complicated; while for “Fractal Flowers” we were engaged for more than 2 years. Every time I do a new installation we improve the software. It’s a way of working in progress.
“The visual impact is strong for me when the image is very graphic and colourful”
Which projects is the next year bringing you?
I’m working on a big immersion installation which will be called “Paraísos Artificiales in-out”. This new creation will be projected in 360º over a double geodesic-vertex cupola that will be built with a diameter of 11 metres. This work will be presented in April 2017 in the gardens of the Château de Chaumont, in Chaumont-sur-Loire during the annual festival.
You have exhibited your work in churches, castles, museums… Which is the space in which you found your work more visually impressive?
The most impressive space wasn’t a historical site or a museum, but the installation of “Origin World” in the quarries of Baux de Provence. It’s a place out of the norm with 7,000 m2 and it was really spectacular because we were surrounded by images with 70 projectors.
The visual impact is strong for me when the image is very graphic and colourful, like in the majority of my installations.
Which others artists get to visually impress Miguel Chevalier?
Some contemporary artists, friends of mine, interest me particularly for their artistic approach and their excellent works, like Felice Varini, Orlan, Daniel Buren, Xavier Veilhan, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, … Other artists I’d like to highlight are James Turrell, Antony Gormey, Anish Kapoor, …
The articles we publish often deal with special trips and unique experiences. Thanks to your work, you’ve had the opportunity to visit many places. Which is the trip you enjoyed the most and would repeat without hesitation?
My sailing trip to the Venezuelan Caribbean. Los Roques is an extraordinary paradise. My other favourite trip is Mexico, the gardens of the surrealist Edward James (called Las Pozas, in Xilitla) are something unique in the world.
“To disconnect” among so many projects must be difficult. What do you usually do in your free time?
To disconnect, and to stimulate my mind too, I often visit exhibitions in galleries and museums. In winter, I go to the Alps to ski in Val d’Isere and I stay in my family’s house, and during summer I usually go to my friends’ house or I travel.
Which is the favourite colour, book and film of Miguel Chevalier?
My favourite colour is red. The last book I read was Soumission by Michel Houellebecq. And the last film I watched was Julieta by Pedro Almodóvar, which I didn’t really like.
During 2016, Miguel Chevalier has exhibited his virtual-reality installations in Brussels, England or Milan, demonstrating once again the great showiness of his works. The fact of staring at his work is a fascinating experience for the senses, that’s why the team of Horse Magazine recommends following him very closely and you’ll be surprised every day by his contemporary and particular vision of art.