"Light Is a True ShapeshifteR": In Conversation with Sybil Montet
By Xinping Lin｜ 20 October, 2021
The first artist to exhibit at the PURE Gallery, we are honored to present Sybil Montet, a media artist and art director based in Paris. She was a member of artistic duo core.pan from 2017 to 2020, during this period, they held various solo exhibitions and participated in numerous group shows around Europe, their latest "LYCAN" created under the curation of Michal Novotny at FUTURA—the Centre for Contemporary Art in Prague. Now formally developed into an independent artist, focusing on digital art, space design and sculptural research. In her works, she combines her fascination for painting and sculpture together with CGI, which allows the author to explore and collapse physical limitations of the medium and elaborate on her interest in technosciences.
The artist's creation is inspired by the dynamic relationship between mysticism and physicality. Her attraction for futurology, deep ecology and technosciences, drives the artists through the creation to create a certain interconnection between humans, technology and nature in an attempt to reveal her own perceptual experience. She spares no effort to research optical film in nature and technology, she is also good at giving vitality to her digital sculptures with iridescence and color deviations, disclosing a unique preference for light. The contours of the works are often combined with complex curves and set off a contemplative atmosphere with sharp and quirky shapes. Negative space is also an important element of expression, the depressions and dark areas evoke the mysterious feelings of the viewer, constructing a dreamlike heterogeneous world.
Sybil runs her own creative studio and has completed commission work for the likes of Travis Scott, Rombaut, BIMBA Y LOLA, Year0001, Numéro Berlin, Dark0, etc. In addition, her works have also been exhibited in art galleries and art fairs such as Spazio Veda, Kunstverein Langenhagen, Karpuchina Gallery, Vunu Gallery and Liste Art fair Basel. She also shared comprehensive experience and ideas in this year conversation with Fondazione Prada.
"PAGE OF WANDS" 3D PRINT PLA, 2K LACQUER
Part of 'Radiance Blast' duo show with Milica Mijajlovic at Vunu Gallery, Kosice (SK), 2020
Xin: I am very fortunate to have some of your time because I know it is very hectic. Where were you born and raised? What influence did your hometown and residence have on your artistic creation, and how can the architecture and environment provide inspiration for your artistic practice?
Sybil: Hi to you and all the people reading me, I'm glad to have the opportunity to share ideas with you, thanks for the invitation Xin!
I was born in the south of France, in a beautiful and wild region called Hérault. We lived in a small village surrounded by hills, vines and canyons. A very warm and mysterious area, with a lot of peculiar geological formations like the "Cirque de Mourèze," which was close to my village. I grew up there until around 10 years old, and then I moved to the north of France, to another small village but very different landscapes. More domesticated and industrial, but with huge forests. We lived in the guardian house of some old members of our Family's manor, the house was strange and scary but there was the garden that was immense, like around 4 hectares with a pond, a small wood and horses gazing... it was like a small world for my sisters and I. From this time happened radical changes in my family and until my 18 years old when I left for Paris, my upbringing was relatively chaotic and unstable. What had the most influence for me was the fact that I spent the first part of my life in a very close relationship to wild landscapes and mysterious nature, I was basically spending all my time outside exploring the fields or the forests when I was not at school. My parents were liberal but not so sociable, and we grew up very free and a bit outside of society. So I could say that what shaped my creativity was this mix of the intense presence of Nature, as a territory of wonders, fears and discoveries, a tumultuous and unstable family life that imprinted a tint of darkness and chaos in my sensitivity.
Architecture and the environment are super influential for me. I'm looking around me all the time and very receptive to the shapes and monuments, atmosphere of places I find myself in. Psycho-geography is a concept that I find very fascinating.
I'm a big fan of architecture, especially speculative/computational architecture studios such as Zaha Hadid studio, Sdu.Create or Material Architecture lab to name a few... I inform myself a lot about architecture and space design, I'm more and more willing to integrate a spatial dimension to my practice. In a way I already have as 3D is a medium where you compose space and volumes - but I want to materialize the kind of spaces I could create in CGI, in the physical realm. Spatial experiences to induce hypnotic, altered or contemplative states. I'm currently working on prototypes for my first solo show next year, and it includes small scale models of invented architectures/structures, in 3D print. It's a first step towards actual spaces in the near future.
Natural environment and landscapes are very important for me as a source of inspiration, but also as subjects in themselves. A given environment will generate a type of atmosphere, you don't feel the same in an arctic tundra, in a mangrove, or in the desert. The immense variety of ecosystems is very stimulating for my work, the symbolic influence of the various typologies of landscapes impact a lot my choices when designing a scenery with a narrative approach. When I'm outside, some details of plants, some geological formations or urban/industrial settings can spawn immediate micro fictions or sculpture ideas in my mind. I also investigates on the folklore and mythologies that you can find attached with specific landscapes, such as Jinns in the desert or ghost-horses in marshes, as the supernatural overlay of any biosphere.
'Paradise Found' II for Creamcake Berlin Paradise Found Festival at Klosterruine, 2019
COVER ART for Wetware Solutions 'Coral Death' EP, 2018
Xin: Having read a lot about your works in preparation for this conversation, I'm trying to write about your work, but it is escaping and evading language by making categorization virtually impossible, and perhaps a literary tradition isn't a very adequate way of discussing what you do. At the end of the day, the work is here, it has its presence, and the words have their presence, but the two didn't seem to me to correspond, I think a much broader approach needs to be adopted in perceiving what you do.
Sybil: Thank you, I love that you experience this with my work. I think there is a lot of entry points to my imagery, maybe a primal one would be the field of direct emotional response, of subconscious reactions. I don't really work in a referenced way, my artworks take shape instinctively most of the time. Maybe they escape categorization because they are liminal, often in a state of mutation, of occurrence or disappearance. Most of my imagery is very energetic in the sense that their first channel of transmission is through visual dynamics, energy flows rather than directly perceptible rhetoric or quotation. It does not mean that I don't morph meaning into my works, but I want the meaning to be enigmatic, open to investigation. Like a prophecy or some secret invocation.
Then since 2021 I'm developing more narrative pieces in order to structure my "mythologies" in a fictional system. I'm actually working on the script of my first cinematic essay, that will be almost entirely in CGI and compositing. I'm also articulating my upcoming exhibitions around fictional concepts - More on this in the near future.
A selection of recent & unreleased CGI artworks by Sybil Montet
Xin: Let me call your works as digital sculpture. Are they only about forms, or are they about belief, passion or experience behind them? What is the source of its abstract form? Your creative philosophy is deeply grounded in the notions of paranormal, the unknown and the cosmos. What is it that draws you to these metaphysical concepts and how do they manifest in your own work? What do you want the audience to take away from such creative explorations?
I feel that you place significant emphasis on the spiritual journey, sometimes even the occult concerns, which animate your models - and presumably also animate you to a degree?
Sybil: There is a large part of my research in CGI that is very pictorial, sensitive, looking for an intense and direct visual collision - ambiguous shapes, dazzling and bended light, vivid colors, iridescence, sharp rhythms in animation. Sceneries that are in a state of transformation, complex to define, cryptic. This abstraction comes from a very intuitive approach, I need to feel my image - when I'm in a sort of trance-like state is when I attain the most optimal artworks. It's not a dumb/alienated automatic mood, more some kind of acute focus on my shapes/colors/lights - how the harmony or disruption that I try to compose in my images has a direct, psychic effect on me while I create.
I consider that creativity can be a channel to connect to the most mysterious and energetic dimensions of life. Be it through fictionalization or direct transmission, through volumes or an image - I'm drawn to these concepts since I'm a child, my parents are both hyper-spiritual, and I always felt myself wanting to explore the mysteries, the magical underlying of things around me, searching for demons or fairies when I was in the forest... for example, every summer, we had these long "night walks" with our father, in the forest, with our dogs and he often told us about "ghosts" and mysterious stories during the walks... it was a sort of ritual, as soon as the weather was warm enough. These moments were the most exciting for me because everything around me was unknown, scary, open to imagination - My mom had also mediumnic abilities and was very into natural energies and "gaia theories," and one of my grand-uncle was a high black magic practitioner and he became a total myth for me when I was a teenage… - I'm immersed in the occult and metaphysical occurrences since for ever. This is in a way my natural state and this is the prism through I instinctively see the world, the dynamics shaping the systems that compose our so complex reality.
In my art I would say that I want my artworks to have a psycho-active effect, to induce secret, subconscious meanings and territories, to beguile the viewer towards more speculative and exploratory mental states. I would like to be more consistent, but indeed I try to study and practice mysticism in various ways and contexts. I always try to send intentions for me or the people I care of, I know and use the virtues of plants, minerals and mushrooms, I take care of my physique and fitness with an psycho-energetic outlook, and I think, from all my researches and readings, that the mind and consciousness have immense and boundless powers. Since I lost my beloved Mom a year ago, my inclinations for the supernatural became more structured and I'm more and more finding systems to mesh my relation to the occult in constructive and performative ways in my art work, as conceptual research but also as genuine "material."
Xin: I was reading your conversation with Fondazione Prada, where you talk about how you are fascinated with ultraviolet rays and color deviations, these can already be seen in your early works. You use a lot of vertical and horizontal reflection halos, the combination of ultraviolet rays and the color of animals and plants. Until now, it has almost become an iconic element on your behalf, I can feel your obsession with optical film, what drives you to continued study of it?
Sybil: For me light is one of the most elegant and intriguing forces that compose this world. All colors come from light in a way or another, it is metamorphic - iridescence, dichroism...- it's a source of energy and technology - solar, lightning, lasers, lidar...- it's also a key element in quantum theory...- the mutable nature of light, of radiance, is hyper resonant with my thinking and my art because it's the very expression of a state of becoming, of transformation. It's a form of sublime that is dynamic, never static. Color changes in the animal world are also used for example as a mode of communication. I'm studying it as an embodiment of the superposition of potentials, but also as a subtle altering influence - I'm for example reading a lot around an odd technological - occult discipline called "Radionics," where the prismatic dimension of light wave and colors are considered as a very strong force that can have a direct effect on the psyche. That's also why I'm very interested by holograms and holographic materials, because you can catch iridescence and the ethereal in substantial objects.
Dawn of spirits, CGI Illustrations, 2020
Xin: The overload of information we experience today should also be related to your production process? During the pandemic, have you began considering making pieces in different formats, or diffusing them in a new way?
Sybil: I'm almost constantly doing researches online - for me internet is a fountain of knowledge and discoveries. The overload of info can be super beneficial if the information that gets to your brain is curated. Endless scrolling on social media is for me some sort of soul's annihilation, but I can spend hours wandering in the information ecosystem online - what I call "drifts" - where I deviate from one source of information, to another and then another in a very liquid, recursive way - but for me it's not losing time, it's a sort of trance-like state of continuous updating, of findings and revelations that expand the conceptual aspects of my research. Internet is another dimension of the planet, with its hyper crowded areas, obscure zones and mirages - It's a multilayered map. Regarding integrating my work in a more online-based practice, actually I'm more interested in a more transversal approach - I want to actualize and manifest my work at a crossover in between the real and the artificial. Online Live-data as input/material for reactive installations, sculptures that i designed in 3D, and that materialize via robotic manufacturing technologies as real volumes and presences… investigating/designing new and mutable morphologies seamlessly in between worlds.
Xin: Do you think that Media Art and Contemporary Art are two separate things? Should they find a convergence point or just keep their own domain of pertinence?
Sybil: I think that there is absolutely no separation in between these fields. These are just iterations and variations of the quasi infinite territory that is Art. What I find most interesting is to navigate and articulate hybridizations between fields.
Xin: Are there any other contemporary artists you'd like to collaborate with or events you'd like to participate in?
Sybil: I would be more interested to collaborate with progressive thinkers, designers or scientists, like Nick Bostrom, Neri Oxman, Audrey Tang, or a computer scientist specialized in experimental machine learning (that I still did not find in my researches for now lol). I would like to expand the subtlety of my practice by learning from incredible, game-changing personas. In terms of events, I could be interested to participate in almost anything if the scope is of a sufficient scale and if I have creative freedom, and coherent logistics to realize ideas. For example a creative objective for me is to be able to design land-art/public art sculptural pieces that have a regenerative effect on their direct environment - a great reference for me there is Mel Chin's revival field installation - I'm looking for opportunities and open calls to be able to produce these works. I want to integrate an ecological performance in some dimensions of my work as an artist.
A residency that I will apply for in a near future is the artist residency at CERN, the captivating scientific research center in Geneva (CH), where gigantic technological set ups are designed to explore the secrets of elemental physics. I'm also a consistent reader and follower of Benjamin H. Bratton's writings, lectures and work at Strelka Institute, with his Terraforming program. I could be very thrilled to participate, I'm considering to apply for next year.
Then, there is contemporary artist that I really respect such as Ian Cheng, Simon Denny, Darja Bajajic, Timur Si-Quin, Liu Chuang... I would like to have conversations with them but I feel that I have too much things to actualize from my own work, I'm not ready nowadays for intense collaborative processes.
Xin: Do you believe Crypto Art will change your artistic direction and why? What advice would you give if other artists wanted to get into the Crypto Art market?
Sybil: I don't think Crypto art will have any effect on my artistic direction. I'm glad if some people find it stimulating, but I'm more inspired by the global crypto revolution and the potential of societal changes that it represents. Another time I'm not really into categories and I would not be able to define my art as crypto-art or any other very niche designation.
INSTALLATION, Output agency opening, CGI & 3D SCAN - Single channel video loop 9 x 3.5m LED screen, Shanghai, 2021
Xin: How music affects your creation - when you took the case of a musician, how did you extract elements from your client's music and interpret it through your own visualization?
Sybil: I'm literally always listening to music - when I create I listen mostly to atmospherical techno/ambient music because it sets a diluted, cosmic/emotional flow that helps me to focus. When I work on commercial commissions, or theory writing, I mostly listen to baroque classical music, because it sets my mind in a structured state, I feel safe and professional. Music is vital for me and I listen to a very very large spectrum of musical styles.
I love to make music videos because most of the times, the musician comes to me with an open creative brief. I listen to the song a few times and I just let visions and emotions, textures, manifest a narration or an atmosphere in my mental imagery. Music videos are for me a fragment of cinematography, mini cinematic essays.
Travis Scott - HIGHEST IN THE ROOM 12" picture disc, 2019
CGI/VFX by Sybil Montet
collaboration with photographer Daniel Sannwald
Xin: Can you recommend a few albums and musicians you like in the end? Thank you for sharing your valuable experience with us!
Sybil: Ok, I listen to a lot of music. This selection is eclectic and I forgot so many things but I'm glad to share at least these one that I think about right now. All these musicians have importance for me and correspond to different emotional states.
Thank you so much for this conversation, your questions were intense and challenging. I would be very happy to continue this artistic conversation, in a way or another in the future.
Moritz Von Oswald
Georg Philipp Telemann
Suling degung Gamelan
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