“A lie can also be art.” Chilean-born, New York-based artist Iván Navarro (b. 1972) uses lighting and optical illusion to explore questions of power and control. A new series of installations, on view at Paris’ Galerie Templon, takes viewers on a cosmic journey. Handmade during the pandemic, the mesmerising works draw on bright lights and vivid colour to navigate the stars. Read the interview with Navarro below.
A: These works were created in 2020 during isolation. How did this experience impact your practice?
IN: I returned to handmade production. My work is known for its minimal appearance and the use of industrial materials. Now, since my work with different fabricators has been more restricted, I decided to do as much as possible with my own hands.
A: Galerie Templon’s exhibition is titled Planetarium. Why did you choose to focus on the solar system?
IN: During the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, I collected images of different nebulae – many photos taken by powerful telescopes all over the world. These images are visions of the space where stars are born. The original photos show beautiful colours that are a mix of gas and dust in the universe. They make me think of the film Nostalgia de la Luz by Patricio Guzman.
A: Can you explain how these cosmic pieces are made?
IN: They are paintings on etched glass, combining mirrors and LED lights. There is also a piece that simulates the movement of an eclipse; it is a kinetic sculpture in a constant loop – changing its composition. The new series called Mist and Shard shows colours and shapes disintegrating in space. Viewers can see two maps of constellations, viewed from the Earth, of the Northern and Southern Hemisphere skies. The new series called Nebula overlays stained glass and panels of LED light.
A: This is the first time you’ve used paint! What inspired you to incorporate a new medium?
IN: All these new works have something in common: they are three-dimensional paintings creating a sense of deep space. They are new developments in the form and technique I have been exploring over the last 10 years.
A: Your works often have a political element – exploring power and control. How does this series speak to the current moment?
IN: My work explores many topics, not just the recent history of Chile, but also architecture, furniture, optics, music and language, amongst other things. A couple of years ago, I started a series of maps; they are different ways of representing the territory of the world three dimensionally. I also became interested in star constellations or sky charts. These are basically invented visualisations of the universe, created in order to understand its magnitude. Conceptually, this is related to what I have explored in works related to the dictatorship in Chile: ideas of social control and surveillance.
A: The exhibition looks mesmerising. What do you hope audiences take away from seeing it?
IN: I am interested in how the visual representation of an idea is affected by the psychological interpretation of the public. That has a lot to do with scientific perception as well. But I don’t think art can be compared to a science. The beauty of art is in its free use of elements, materials, stories and history in order to represent or interpret a concept. Of course, this is my personal point of view. For me, there are no facts to prove – or patterns to understand – in order to speculate on answers to an artistic hypothesis. A lie can also be art.
A: What’s next? Any upcoming shows, projects or books?
IN: I am currently showing a retrospective of my work at CentQuatre in Paris and working on two group shows in Saudi Arabia during March. I just published a new monograph focused on my Public Art pieces – it will be available at Galerie Templon during my next show. I am also working on a very large installation for the subway in Paris; it will be open to the public in 2026.
The Galerie Templon show opens 30 January. Find out more and access the online viewing room here.
1. Ivàn Navarro Nebula I (Detail), 2020. LED light, wood, aluminum, glass paint, glass, mirror, one-way mirror and electric energy 121.9 x 121.9 x 15.2 cm – 48 x 48 x 6 in. © Courtesy Templon, Paris – Brussels.
2. Ivàn Navarro, Constellations, 2019. LED lights, walnut box, mirror, one-way mirror, electric energy 88.90 x 177.80 x 18 cm – 35 x 70 x 7 1/8 in. © Courtesy Templon, Paris – Brussels.
3. Ivàn Navarro, Shrapnel V, 2020. LED, glass paint, wood, sand blasted mirror, one-way mirror and electric energy. 121.90 x 121.90 x 15.34 – 48 x 48 x 6 in. © Courtesy Templon, Paris – Brussels.
4. Ivàn Navarro Nebula I, 2020. LED light, wood, aluminum, glass paint, glass, mirror, one-way mirror and electric energy 121.9 x 121.9 x 15.2 cm – 48 x 48 x 6 in. © Courtesy Templon, Paris – Brussels.
5. Ivàn Navarro, Constellations (Detail), 2019. LED lights, walnut box, mirror, one-way mirror, electric energy 88.90 x 177.80 x 18 cm – 35 x 70 x 7 1/8 in. © Courtesy Templon, Paris – Brussels.