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Turning Spilled Nail Polish Into Psychedelic, Exploding Forms

Mathiew Missiaen and Cinq Fruits take mundane objects and make them beyond surreal.

This article was originally published on June 2, 2014 but we think it still rocks!

Paris-based artist and designer Mathieu Missiaen is the master of the visual paradox. As the art director and founder of Cinq Fruits, the studio fuses fashion, design, contemporary art and design into something greater than the sum of its parts. No strangers to set design, Cinq is known for its clever combination of art direction, photography, sculpture, and installation. With a knack for tweaking product photography into vibrant, surreal still life photographs, the upcoming show poses the question: “Is that real?”


Surprisingly, the answer is often, yes.

When asked to demystify the process of his still photo work, Missiaen doesn’t hesitate to explain. “Our goal and main inspiration is the CGI picture, the molecular picture, the scientific picture,” he says from his studio. He notes that there’s rarely any post-production, no CGI, and rarely any use of Photoshop in his photographs—a shock that makes us do a double take when seeing the work.

“We will never use a 3D printer, but implement all our skills to have [a similar] render,” he said. “We love the mistakes that a human can bring—technology can make mistakes too—but we love to mix the two, and then people really think about the process.”

We can see that his laser lizards look like they’re sitting on either a mirror or a scanner. But we could be wrong.

Missiaen did an editorial for Novembre Magazine using American Apparel nail polish for a partnership project. They used hydrogel, a liquid gel material that can miraculously contain varnish. “It was a great experiment,” says Missiaen. They look like psychedelic, exploding fortune-telling balls. There are drops and splashes of nail polish mixing into other colors, forming bubbles, shapes and hints of recognizable objects (like condoms, for example). "We don’t really have limits,” he says.

Technology is used in the process, like creating objects with modeling programs and then building them in real life. But even when these objects get built with a computer and then get photographed, we still have a million questions about how these visual mind-melts look so real without the use of any post-production.


Some favorites include the squishy, transparent gel, which shines on a gradient blue-purple background. There's also an iridescent silver grill on a set of dentures, and a fire detector alarm on a turquoise background, calling to mind a retro instruction manual from the 80s. In another picture, gold powder sits in a blue beaker, while a woman’s finger sticks her finger in pink gel in another like a mock 50s food advertisement. A plant stuck in a sports bottle calls to mind Duchamp. Others feel like cousins of something you'd find in Toilet Paper Magazine.

Missiaen is designing a bar called l’Isolé in the Pigalle district of Paris. It will include glass furniture and ceramics, alongside a set of special dishes. “We always try to make people think twice about the subject or the technique,” he said. Whether it's special dishes or globs of nail polish that look extraterrestrial, this studio is making us think more times than we can count.

To learn more about the artist click here.


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