Curator Paola Gentili speaks with American artist Christophe Piallat on his practice concerning space, light, inspiration and what hides is his boxes.

PG: Before meeting you in person I have received two big boxes to the Biennale that have been stuck for days in customs. Christophe, what’s inside your boxes?

CP: Inside my two boxes are the essential ingredients to making my installations anywhere in the world. First and foremost is the paper I have used for almost 5 years now. I use a special butcher paper that usually is used to wrap meat & other food products. I first purchased a large roll in San Francisco 5 years ago that was approximately 2 m wide & 200 m long & weighed 200 kilos. As I unrolled the clean smooth paper I would crush it together with my hands condensing it as tightly possible. The paper is very strong and holds its folds like stone. After each installation I would continue to crush it with my hands in various ways & now after 5 years & several international exhibitions the paper has a texture: the more rough and destructive you handle the paper, the more interesting the results.

PG: By looking at your practice it is clear that light plays a significant role, am I wrong?

CP: Light it’s essential in my practice! I use both natural and artificial light in my installations. I sculpt the paper around the light sources which can sometimes be windows or doors or florescent light fixtures. I am first and foremost a photographer and light is the essential element in photography. The camera captures light and records light and shadow at a moment in time and eventually becomes a print which of course is paper. I have always wanted to blend the mediums of photography and sculpture. My installations seek to capture light, transform paper, and document light and shadow in a sculptural moment in time.

PG: As we are talking about time I wonder what space means to you…

CP: My installations are often said to resemble natural or geological structures. They have been said to resemble, rocks, mountains, caves, glaciers or clouds. I have always been drawn to our planet’s various landscapes but always bored with photographs of them. My desire is to create similar geological formations but from another planet all within a “sculptural photographic” format.

My installations always address the space that they are presented in. I utilize the architecture of any given space and adhere to walls, windows, floors, ceilings, and columns. They intend to interact with their environment and create a dialogue with their surroundings.

PG: So last but not least , how has the Island affected your work, how has it inspired you?

CP: In documenting the installations I photograph the small details which returns the medium back to image which usually resembles abstract geological formations or landscapes. After exploring Santorini’s fascinating landscape, I intend to honor the remnants of the ancient volcano and title my piece for the 1st International Santorini Biennale, ‘Fading Caldera’ which will reflect sections of the descending cliffs into the sea and their various colors within its geological strata.





Artist Statement:
For the last five years my practice has focused on the amalgamation of three dimensional installation and photography. Light is the integral component at the heart of these media and represents the true foundation of my work. Similar to the photographic process, my installations seek to capture light, transform paper, and present a sculptural, as opposed to a pictorial, moment in time. My materials include: recycled, hand-crushed, butcher paper, wood, natural and artificial light sources. The butcher paper is sculpted around the light sources to produce ambiguous and anthropomorphic forms that actively interact within a given space. Once installed, I begin the process of photographically documenting the details of these installations. The camera transforms these small areas (sometimes 6”x 9” total) into vast and distant landscapes. The photographic prints from these details are presented as documentation and as separate works. This symbiotic relationship informs each medium and explores the intersection of ephemeral form, illumination, and photography. Recent site works have been exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the 2010 Holland Paper Biennial in The Netherlands.

Christophe Piallat’s installation will be displayed as part of the Paper section during the whole lenghth of the Inaugural Santorini Biennale of Art in Santorini.


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