Raphael Garnier is a digital cosmonaut, equally entranced by the flickering mystery emanating from Kirchner’s 18th century “magic lamps,” primordial symbology, and the dazzle-spaz of gif animations. Garnier finds just as much potential to explore new realms within the internet “as in the seabed.” In his travels, he has constructed a wondrous cabinet of curiosities from the binary and the bombastic, fixated firmly on both the future and the worship of magic from a near distant past.
Can you talk a little bit about how you first got into creating art and what you like about it?
Difficult question … I have always designed and tinkered. I built cabins in the woods and other stuff. I naturally got an art-schools orientation to explore and develop my imagination. I obtained a diploma of graphic designer and I have been working in Paris since one year. I divide my time between working in a record company and personal projects, illustrations, textile design. But I prefer working on art projects such as exhibitions. The most intense moments of my life are when I’m working on a new project. The excitement is unmatched. I feel like having a quest. “An artist is someone who explores a world that does not exist yet”. I want to explore this world.
I love your images that feature a series of people, whose likenesses are obscured with bizarre shadow-shaded orbs and open eyes. Can you talk about your inspiration behind them?
This is a series for the Swedish magazine “Deleted scenes magazine,” The theme of the issue was “hysteria”. I began my work with some portraits realesed by a friend, Alain Rodriguez.I never work from a source of inspiration. I try things in abusing the picture … until finding something interesting that stimulates my imagination. Here I cut circles of skin, hair, eye, I duplicated. Strange set of scales emerge and remind me of marquetry. I started to cover the entire photo to isolate the face. Then I drew the body and hair playing with overlapping circles to create volume again. From there I was thinking of LOUIS XIV and portraits of the 17th and 18th centuries. But also the painters of the Renaissance as ARCIMBOLDO. Finally, the carpets eyes raise “hysteria”, a hidden monster…
The icon of the “eye” recurs frequently throughout your works. I read that the eye is one of the most emblematic icons that tends to draw humans into that point picture…that second only to the human face. Can you talk about why you gravitate towards it and how you use it?
I also read it in “Art and Illusion: The Psychology of Pictorial Representation”, brilliant study of the famous historian of the art ERNST HANS GOMBRICH, that this attraction to the eyes was caused from our animal instinct. When the man drove into the forest, where he discovered two eyes in a bush was a sign of danger. It’s the same principle when we look for faces in the pattern of a wallpaper, that after finding the eyes that we reconstruct a monster or something. I think I play with our “animal instinct “. It’s simple, but both eyes bring another dimension to an image. This takes us somewhere else and I like it.
Another type of image that recurs is a hyper-realistic noodle/twisted rope shape that you use for lettering and beyond- it looks like you even made ceramic models of it? It’s interesting that these design concepts are translated not just digitally, but also into solid objects….Can you talk about this icon, how it came about?
I enjoy working one form, combine with another to get other things like a ball of wool that is taking place. I never know where I’m going to get. This is the principle of exploration.My forms of torsade / noodles are an expression of this principle. It is a recurring figure I use in all areas: publishing, illustration, pattern design, frame. I like the idea that these forms are spread. I like to exhaust the possible combinations. In this form it is still much to do. It’s like a DNA chart. These forms become real ceramic. The imaginary becomes real. From ILLUSTRATOR to ceramic.
Almost all your images on your site are in black and white- why this color choice?
All images are in the dark yet. In black and white.My site is under construction for quite some time now. In choosing the level of gray I want to unify all of my works, easily identifying links between them. Thereby, a universe is constructed and proved. Of course when it is finished you will find more pictures in color by clicking. My site has two functions. It serves primarily to archive my personal achievements but also, owing to this video walls — like a cabinet of curiosities — I can quickly choose which playgrounds I’ll go. Once I have a new project / command I go to my site and I chose a technique or form of a directory to continue to develop … drawing, 3D, photos, etc.
I love the animations you’ve made, a series of orbs endlessly growing/disappearing, forming the shape of a bizarre grinning clown and back into emptiness, and two triangle snakes endlessly looping. Can you talk about how you made these, what your thoughts were behind it?
These are two different projects. The clown is the starting point of a project called “Mascaron“. (In architecture, a mascaroon is a decoration usually representing a human figure sometimes frightening whose function was, originally, to ward off evil spirits so they do not enter the house. – I make digital “Mascarons” that I offer to my friends as magic antivirus on their computer. This “Mascaron” disappears and reappears as breathing, which makes it alive … I also used this face for a T-shirt for the Swiss label PRISM. For the second animation, it is a “Video of curiosity”. I develop an entire cabinet of videos of curiosities to reconnect with the “Worship of wonder”.
I noticed you had a print book on your website, filled with a lot of imaginative patterns and graphics. It seems like you use shape and form to express your narrative- I didn’t see much text (except on the cover of the book in French.) Can you talk about print work, and your inspiration behind this book?
Yes, this book is a part of my diploma project. The title is “Stereotomy utopias”. Within the meaning of the word, Stereotomy is the art of cutting different volumes for assembly. This book is a book to visit. You should know that the book upon its appearance was built as a building that we walked from one end to another. I equated the Method of Loci — also called the memory palace— and construction of a book to create an object that exists through the power of imagination in our heads. I propose to lead the reader into an imaginary world and in narratives where he submits to role play and projection. Specifically, it is an experience where the book is composed of shapes, patterns and colors that we mentally assemble by evocation. We are building a site that does not exist, an utopia.
I read that you run a design studio called Pipi Parade in conjunction with Alain Rodriguez. Can you talk about the studio, how it formed, how you created the name, and some of your favorite work you’ve done?
We have been working together for our studies. We had common desires and graphic dialogue was set up fairly quickly. We decided to create a graphic design studio together, naturally.
For the name, we wanted something that sounded good in French. As a joke, Alain proposed PIPI and I found it very beautiful. PIPI PARADE, that sounds good, right? The studio is young, we haven’t a lot of projects yet, but we’re working on collections of wallpaper, tiles and tablecloths for a new French publisher called GAF. We are glad with the result.
Many of your works manipulate the internet or other digital tropes- can you talk about your view on the relation between art/technology and the future of new media forms?
Technology has always been evolving art, or creating new forms. I think the “magic lantern” of ATHANASIUS KIRCHER in the 17th century was the premise of a new art : cinema. But also more recently, the invention of photography…
The virtual / digital world is to explore as fascinating and frightening that the seabed. I find it quite logical that digital moved increasingly in the art ; the computer has so changed our lives. It’s hard for me to talk to everybody because I’m not familiar of new technology. I work in the most simple animations. Animated GIFs are the new attractions that we exchange as in the Renaissance with the discovery of new worlds with which collectors decorate their offices.