Using cutting-edge 3D printing technology, Belgian artist Nick Ervinck produces futuristic sculptures informed by historic production techniques, like the metalwork used to make Roman military helmets. In his recent series entitled Human Mutation, Ervinck creates figures in the traditional bust format that illustrate his speculations about what humans might become as we continue to integrate new technologies into our lives.
Even Ervinck's production process mirrors the notion of a human-machine hybrid. While he uses 3D computer graphics programs, like Autodesk 3DS Max, to design his sculptures, Ervinck says that the way he uses the programs allows him to draw his designs manually. "I actually see the computer as an extension of my body: an external hard drive in which I save all my images in order to create extra space in my head. Sometimes I design, together with my assistants, 200-300 versions of a sculpture to then choose two of them," Ervinck tells Creators.
In the Human Mutation series, Ervinck compares 3D printing and our growing reliance on technology with the creation of a metal Roman helmet, combining combines iconic elements from historic eras in order to represent the diverse imagery represented in contemporary culture. "This helmet was crossed with the image of an 18th century castle. In the current cultural industry, computer games and Hollywood movies after all stimulated the revival of a Greek-Roman mythology. This eclecticism is inherent to my digital designing process, by which I transform existing fragments into a new virtual setting. Past, present and future collide in a complexity of materiality that drives a battle between the virtual and the physical," explains Ervinck.
For Ervinck, the process by which 3D prints are constructed is part of the creative tradition of the culture that created it. "Today, with 3D print technology, which builds by means of layers, you can go further than you could before when all you had as tools were your hands and a chisel. This is very exciting to me. With the help of a computer, you can realize new, organic, experimental and negative spaces, so that sculptures are created within sculptures. I don't just use the technology of 3D printing but also look at how I can flirt with it, how I can transcend its limitations. To this end, I focus on the tension between 'blobs' and 'boxes,' which manifests in the course of the digital design process," says Ervinck.
Despite illustrating a future in which human features meld with technology, human ingenuity is ultimately the motivating force behind Ervinck's work. "My happiest moments are when I think up something that I can then execute. The more I work in the virtual world, the more I have the compulsion to manifest these designs in reality and experience them physically."