Entertainment

Uncanny Installations Reveal Magic in Everyday Materials

Artist Christophe Piallat transmits light through materials like foil and paper, altering our perception of them into something more fantastical.
August 11, 2016, 1:20pm

What Lies Inside, Stays Inside. Christophe Piallat. Photo courtesy of the artist

Aluminum foil, butcher paper, wood, and painters plastic aren't the most fantastical of materials, but in the hands of New York-based artist Christophe Piallat, they become terrains and otherworldly landscapes. These organic-looking facades are the outward-facing parts of more complex infrastructures contained within, strange lands that seem like they have somehow sprouted incongrously inside the places where they're situated. Upon contact with their surfaces, external lights transform them into something entirely alien and mysterious.

This technique is used for his current exhibition, What Lies Inside, Stays Inside, which turns an abandoned extension of an iconic record shop, the Canterbury Records storefront in Pasadena, California, into a gleaming, extraterrestrial world. The title itself refers to the process behind the work, while the process—a complex interior supporting a glistening, molded façade—is a metaphor for how we project ourselves. "Glossy and flashy but perhaps not always revealing what is inside these vessels of ours," is how Piallat describes it to The Creators Project.

What Lies Inside, Stays Inside. Christophe Piallat. Photo courtesy of the artist

To find the right materials for his works and the right approach to sculpting them, Piallat creates a glass photo station so he can investigate their properties, both inside and out, using light. He then builds models, testing light sources and their proximities to the materials. Some lights need to be particularly close, while others depend more on their colors and intensities. Piallat then plans the pieces according to their specific locations, playing with the contours of his spaces and their existing light sources while sketching a path for the sculpture to follow.

What Lies Inside, Stays Inside. Christophe Piallat. Photo courtesy of the artist

"I look for interesting architectural elements that allude to a natural formation growing off these elements," says Piallat. "Once the infrastructure is built and the outer 'skin' is ready to be applied, I usually move very quickly, not thinking too much about design, but more how to surprise myself. Each piece of material applied must be done so with spontaneity, balance, and risk. Similar to jazz music, you go out on a limb, not sure it will hold, but it hangs by a thread and transmits the feeling you are looking for."

The results are a curious hybrid of the organic-looking made with the inorganic, of exacting planning and improvisation, of illusion created from commonplace materials—which are then rendered into something other and far-flung through light.

What Lies Inside, Stays Inside. Christophe Piallat. Photo courtesy of the artist

"Light is how we perceive the world’s contours," notes Piallat. "Depending on how an object transmutes the light it receives, it can create different dimensional planes and emotional responses. Nature too informs my work. It is finding the balance of the internal world of the body and the geologic world of landscape. I always try to make something that is both and alive and dead, strong yet fragile, and feels like fire and ice. I like organic forms that are not alive. I like landscapes that I have never seen. I am inspired by science fiction, astronomy, and distant frontiers. Basically I look for magic in everyday materials."

What Lies Inside, Stays Inside. Christophe Piallat. Photo courtesy of the artist

What Lies Inside, Stays Inside. Christophe Piallat. Photo courtesy of the artist

What Lies Inside, Stays Inside. Christophe Piallat. Photo courtesy of the artist

What Lies Inside, Stays Inside. Christophe Piallat. Photo courtesy of the artist

What Lies Inside, Stays Inside. Christophe Piallat. Photo courtesy of the artist

What Lies Inside, Stays Inside is on now until October 2, 2016 at Canterbury Records Cornerstore 805 E. Colorado Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91101. Visit Christophe Piallat's website here.

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