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Interview with Miguel Chavelier

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We chatted to the artist, Miguel Chevalier behind our Lumiere London installation at Oxford Circus and here’s what we found out.

Tell us about your background/experience?

I spent my childhood in Mexico, where my father was a diplomat. During that time, my parents met people who moved in the same creative intellectual circles as the great muralist artist, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Diego Rivera and many others. Knowing these people played a major role in my own intellectual awakening and in my creative artistic process.

I began studying at the School of Fine Arts in Paris in 1978. In the early 1980s, computing was becoming increasingly present in everyday life and people began to talk about the digital society. For contemporary creative artists, it was unexplored territory, and it was this that I wanted to go into deeper.

In 1983, thanks to a Lavoisier grant from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I went to New York to pursue my investigations at the Pratt Institute and at the School of Visual Arts, which had just created a digital department. I was finally able to gain free access to the first computer drawing software programs. It was at that moment that I realised how all modes of expression—painting, photography, and video that we had known until then — were soon going to be profoundly altered and overturned by these new technologies. I  understood that these software programs were a platform to create a new form of expression in the world of the art.

How did you get involved in Lumiere London ? What advice would you give people who want to be involved in Lumiere next year?

I was commissioned by Artichoke to make a new work for Lumiere London this year following the success a previous Artichoke commission, the large-scale installation Complex Meshes, created for Durham Cathedral for Lumiere in Durham in 2015.

What advice would you give people who want to be involved in London Lumiere next year?

The advice I could give to people who want to get involved in London Lumiere next year, would be the same advice as I would give for everything. It takes time to create original artworks in the digital world. You have to experiment with many small scale ideas. From these models you have to create poetic works that can be exhibited at the urban scale.

What inspired your design?

My design is inspired by different forms that I found in nature such as plant and biological structures and by non-Euclidean geometry such as fractal algorithms.

How did you go about designing it ?

At first I do not have a very precise idea, but I have shapes in nature or in the world of science that appeal to me. I do research around these sources of inspiration, then, little by little, I gather documents in the form of drawings, photos, writings and other elements that allow me to imagine step by step how these forms can be transposed into my artistic design.

What does your role involve?

I see my role as using the tools of today as a means to of artistic expression and encourage reflection about our current world. To realize these creations I surround myself with technically competent people and computer scientists who create dedicated software for my artwork. It is team work.

What does your design represent?

My design is inspired by the world of biology, micro-organisms, and the constant movement and division of cells. I create a new kind of “technological baroque” art of ever-changing universes, where organic and pixelated images mingle, change shape, speed up and slow down through sixty different tableaux. Sinuously rippling curves bring back to life the artificial paradises of the Nineteen Seventies. They create unprecedented visual experiences that are not unreminiscent of psychedelic universes, and the new drugs that are the digital world.

What makes Lumiere London so exciting for you?

It’s very exciting to be able to share my work with such a large number of people and especially those who think they’re not be interested in contemporary art. What I want is make high quality digital art that is both accessible and engaging, engages people, while being as intellectually and visually stimulating as the work shown in art galleries and museums.

Which other artists inspire you?

There are many artists who inspire me, from Monet to Matisse, and Warhol to Fontana. Monet in my view heralded a form of digital impressionism, the result of which may be seen in my virtual garden, like Ultra-Natures, Trans-Nature or Extra Natural. Then there is Nam June Paik, who, in using video as art, became the father of the electronic arts. Lastly, in the twenty-first century, my research is not so far removed from artists such as Olafur Eliasson, who explores people’s different perceptions of light using the color wheel, non-Euclidean geometry and kaleidoscopes .

Do you have any other works coming up in 2018?

Yes, 2018 is an important year for me, as I am preparing several major exhibitions, including a huge exhibition in the old Bordeaux submarine base with Digital Abysses from March 8th to May 20th. It is a new exhibition configured on the monumental scale of the place, with 10 generative and interactive digital installations inspired by plankton and deep seabed. I am also preparing 2 important exhibitions in London Ubiquity 1 & 2 thanks to The Mayor Gallery in their space exploring the imagination of the city and its urban transformations which will be from April 13th to June 1st. I am also taking part in the Artists & Robots group exhibition which will be presented on April 4th at the Grand Palais in Paris. Finally, I am waiting for the validation of a big project with the Opera CCK in Buenos Aires in Argentina and Shenzhen in China.