Nicolas Vionnet’s sculptural works play with perspective and space – referencing everyday processes and materials. His extensive exhibition CV includes the Moscow International Biennale for Young Art and the Odessa Biennale of Contemporary Art. A multidisciplinary artist, Vionnet is based in the Zürich Metropolitan Area.
A: On the occasion of the Bauhaus Centenary, how are you reflecting upon your education at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar?
NV: The regular reports in the media repeatedly remind me of the exciting time I had at the university. From 2007 to 2009, I completed a master’s degree in Public Art and New Artistic Strategies.
To this day, I feel a strong connection with the city of Weimar and the state of Thuringia. I was able to meet many interesting and great people during this time. I am still in close contact with some of them, especially with Wouter Sibum from Rotterdam. We got along well from the very beginning and noticed that there were many similarities in our work. So we started to work on collaboration projects and were able to show them in different places around the world.
We are particularly pleased to be returning to Weimar now, ten years after our master’s degrees, to present a joint project in the public space as part of the exhibition series 100 Tage – 100 Akteure. We’re really looking forward to it.
A: How did the school influence your practice?
NV: The training had a very strong influence on me and guided my work in completely new directions. My roots actually lie in painting; this medium was always very important and present in all of my early works.
Looking back, however, I also see a lot of repetition in these pieces. I always found it very difficult to reinvent myself and to break new ground. In Weimar I began to deal with site-specific interventions in public spaces. The whole approach of how I dealt with a theme changed completely. The medium suddenly no longer stood in the foreground. Rather, in my research I consistently started from the location itself. What kind of story does a place have, what function does it have in everyday life and how is it used by people?
These and similar questions led me, at the beginning of a project, to have no idea what materials I would eventually be working with. So I sometimes surprised myself and created works that were almost alien to me; this was a refreshing experience.
A: How important is your studio space in the inspiration and subsequent creation of your work?
NV: My studio is first and foremost a place of retreat. There are days when I’m just there reading without really working on a project. Or days where I spend hours tidying up or preparing work for shipping.
Funnily enough, the ideas for a new project usually come to me when I’m on a walk through town or when I’m on a bus or train. The studio usually only comes into play when, for example, I have ordered materials and can tackle the first tests. Then I look at how my idea can be combined with the existing material and whether everything works as I imagined it.
A: You often reference everyday materials and processes – why is the quotidian so important as a point of departure?
NV: My work is characterised by the central idea of integration and irritation. I like works that at first glance don’t look like art and leave the viewer in the dark. That’s why I often work with everyday objects and with given situations in the public space. I like to intervene in the situations we are familiar with and provoke subtle changes. You could say that I integrate my works into an already harmonious environment and thus lead to unexpected irritations.
What are you currently working on?
NV: At the beginning of the year I felt a great desire to paint again and so I started a new series. The large-format works are done in black and white, and deal with the depiction of fabrics and draperies. In doing so, I try to create works that move in a field of tension between folds and patterns.
Two themes that are quite contrary to each other: wrinkles create three-dimensionality by creating a surface by their contraction and convexity. Conversely, the flatness of the pattern shows a tendency to negate the space to the surface. In addition to the visual language, however, the conceptual approach is almost even more important to me.
The canvas is worked in an unmounted state; the fabric is actually folded and treated with paint. Only after stretching the canvas does the actual effect become visible. The result surprises me again and again.
A: What projects and events do you have coming up?
NV: The first half of this year is keeping me busy with various exhibitions. In the summer I will go on extended trip with my family. I have consciously decided to turn my back on art for a few weeks: we’ll see if I succeed.
Current and upcoming exhibitions: Nicolas Vionnet
Half a Pound of Art, group exhibition at størpunkt Gallery for Contemporary Art in Munich, until 25 May.
Unser Bauhaus, Teil 3, group exhibition, part of the exhibition series 100 Tage – 100 Akteure. At Gaswerk Weimar, until 14 April. For this exhibition, Vionnet is presenting Colour Me Surprised, a collaboration with Wouter Sibum.
Room 105, group exhibition at the widmertheodoridis gallery in Eschlikon, until 25 May.
Gasträume 2019 – Art in Public Spaces in Zurich, at the widmertheodoridis gallery, from 8 June until 1 September.
Further details regarding the exhibitions can be found by clicking here.
The work of Nicolas Vionnet appears in the Artists’ Directory in Issue 87 of Aesthetica. To pick up a copy, click here to visit our online shop.