Born in Paris in 1968, Pascal Haudressy is distinguished among his contemporaries by an inventive artistic approach which has seen him pioneer a new image format that forensically focuses on the nature of movement, materiality and immateriality.
Exploring the transformative mutations we experience - but don’t always notice - in a world where biological entities coexist with virtual life-forms, Haudressy is inspired by his ancestral ties to Uzbekistan, which form an engaging link in his work between the distant past and the unforeseeable future. The artist visually brings together the calculated rigour of scientific method and the alchemy of myth from the Orient and Occident. Borrowing from the traditions of Samarkand Art, native to the Uzbek people, Haudressy has conceived of his own ornamental aesthetic, in which everything appears as static as it is vibrant. The composed motifs give birth to a generative series of images that endlessly reconfigure themselves, giving his work a unique characteristic.
We had the chance to speak with Pascal Haudressy about algorithms and pushing computers to the limit in his studio in Paris, France.
Sedition: For an audience less familiar with your work, can you begin by explaining the principles of your practice?
Pascal Haudressy: My work explores the blank space between different mediums: painting, sculpture and video. For me my practice and research reflects the changes in our systems of representation that are less and less limited, and more contained by determined spaces with a clear territoriality.
S: The first work of yours I saw was a digital loop of Heart (2009), in which the intrinsic shape of a heart appears forensically illuminated as it throbs beneath a viral shell. What was the intention of that work?
PH: In that series Somewhere We Will Meet Again, which includes Heart, I actually pushed the calculating system of the computer to its limits; to its point of failure. With this system of ‘noises’ I push new technologies to their breaking point, or moment of collapse; and then tear them apart and reshape them so that I can rework them using a more classic artistic vocabulary. In other words, I deregulate the computer’s system to generate a new material, random and animated, as a new tool for drawing. The noise generated reflects the incapacity to achieve the goal that has been set. The representation of a beating heart in this case. The subtle line between failure and success, chaos and order, is what interests me greatly.
S: Your being born in Paris whilst having cultural ties to Uzbekistan, how significant is the ‘Orient and Occident’ to you in your work?
PH: My work often tries to create a link between the distant past and the unforeseable future, and I try to integrate them into the calculating qualities of science and the alchemy of myth from the Orient and Occident. From memory I can recall a blue silk bedspread and an Uzbek tapestry decorated my childhood bedroom, where sometimes I allowed myself to be drawn to the play of the fabric, light and shimmer.
S: Going back, can you explain the significance of the Flags of Tolerance Project, which you worked on with Robert Rauschenberg and Gordon-Matta Clarke, and Friedensreich Hundertwasser, among others?
PH: I really began my own artistic career in 2008, after having spent twelve years working for UNESCO creating and developing art projects. The flags of tolerance project is the first project that I did for the organisation. The idea was to celebrate tolerance worldwide, and I had asked six different artists from different countries and regions of the world to contribute a painting or a drawing to the project. These contributions were edited as a set of six flags that were shown in over sixty capitals all over the world at the same time. It was quite a symbol of tolerance to have these different visions reflecting various cultural backgrounds, raised together in so many different cultural contexts.
S: With all of the digital works, are you dealing more with technology and technique than you are concerned with animating the visual motifs?
PH: Even if I incorporate new technologies, I work these materials into a work in a classic way, whereby each composition, detail, colour and shape requires a great deal of attention. Though I believe what motivates my work is not so much animation or new technologies, but about how to create a link between different mediums: painting, sculpture, video or light; and of a link between materiality and immateriality, a painting and the photons of a projection for example, or a sculpture and its shadow on a painting. Apart from this special edition of the heart for Sedition, which is presented as follows: a screen where the video is integrated into a pictorial space. What interests me is creating a dialogue and blank space between these two mediums.
S: And what about the way the works are displayed? With Dyptique (2009) are you acting as anthropologist as much as an artist?
PH: I am neither an anthropologist neither a sociologist. I try to find a symbiotic relationship between thought and material, between an idea and its realization – almost like an ecosystem whose purpose is founded on the relationship of different interdependent elements and their imbrication. It is an approach that is both conceptual and physical. Although, artist, scientist, anthropologist, even though they are different practices, they do not seem antagonistic at all. In their developmental states these disciplines attempt to explain reality. A reality for which in all cases there is no definitive answer. Nevertheless what interests me is not the long list of bio-technical-socio-economic changes of which we are observers and occasionally actors, but their impact on the way we perceive the world and ourselves.
S: How do you explain your interest in ‘the nature of movement, materiality and immateriality’ in your work?
PH: You could also add between what is visible, suggested, revealed, permanent, fluctuating, a long list of what has been considered as symmetrical opposites. I see a shift in our systems of representation and in the way we perceive ourselves and our environment, which is less and less defined by delimited spaces or concepts. Before the second half of the twentieth century it was the idea of production that was dominant; then the system of objects, a defined and limited space that characterised the occidental world. Nowadays, we define concepts and perceive reality, our environment more and more through spaces that combine what seemed not so long ago opposite, and to some extent, incompatible. We intellectually proceed with a system of ‘collage’ – one layer on top of another – where the idea is more about emersion, and of an intimate mixture of different systems, elements, or layers.
S: Do you envisage your work moving more towards abstraction in order to capture the sensation and sentiment of motion more effectively? Or are the works never entirely about one thing?
PH: The separation between figuration and abstraction in the perspective of our contemporary knowledge is very subjective and probably depends on the point of view of the observer, or at what scale the subject is perceived. In the series that you mentioned before Somewhere We Will Meet the organs are composed by fluctuating geometric figures; the starting point of which is probably abstraction but it leads to a more figurative representation.
S: What are you reading and working on at the moment?
PH: I am currently alternating between two books, depending on my mood. An essay by Victor Hugo on the work of William Shakespeare, and a more scientific book about codes in nature. Concerning work, I alternate at the moment between researching for Somewhere We Will Meet Again that incorporates the heart in a pictorial space, and the series Somehow We Met Before that uses the same formal principles: noise, video and painting, but more expansively. In the latter work, subjects are archetypal, as temporal figures of our psyche, as we find them in the works of historical artists such as (Michelangelo) Caravaggio. To be more precise I am currently studying his 1579 painting Narcissus, and of the blank space between mind and materiality.
View Pascal Haudressy’s Organs Collection featuring three animations including Somewhere We Will Meet Again (White Version), Brain (White Version) and Lungs (White Version), available on Sedition in digital editions of 300 each.
Text by: Rajesh Punj
Images: Courtesy of Pascal Haudressy studio. From top to bottom: Triptyque (2009), Saint François (2015), Between The Lignes (2015), Choise (2014).