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Artist Nelson Pernisco shares his interest in urbanism and brutalist aesthetic

Paris-based French artist and curator, Nelson Pernisco, talks to STIR about his spatial installation artworks, examining the urban narrative, architecture and artefact.

by Shraddha NairPublished on : Aug 26, 2021

Nelson Pernisco is a French artist currently based in Paris. Pernisco works with a wide range of material, with a keen interest in the sculptural form. He leans toward the use of recycled and repurposed materials which lends an industrial and brutalist aesthetic to his installations. He is concerned with contemporary habitats, and human engagement with architecture and urban spaces.

Pernisco explains that his practice is involved with ideas of time, stating that his perception of sculpture is driven by the tendencies and behaviours of time rather than space. This is unlike how sculpture is conventionally treated, creating a notable shift in perspective for the artist and viewer both. He says, “My sculptures do not then only live for the duration of a hanging, these are living beings… I try to test the time at work in the exhibition space. Through melting snow installations, collapsing sand constructions, growing invasive plants in galleries, I talk about the evolution of sculpture and become a spectator of my own works. I am trying to accelerate the effect of time to build some sort of ruins which are appreciable on a human scale."

He continues to share, “I’m trying to create installations that are able to use the exhibition period to interact with natural influences and transform themselves. By allowing the sculptures to grow or having them go through entropic processes, I try to exhibit forms that exist in different time frames, beyond the present moment of the show."

A closer look at Oui La Nuit Reve Dans Le Mineral (2020) | Nelson Pernisco | STIRworld
A closer look at Oui La Nuit Reve Dans Le Mineral (2020) Image: Christophe Levet and Nelson Pernisco

Pernisco is the co-founder of Le Wonder, a collaborative project which looks at taking over abandoned spaces in urban environments and reconstruct spaces of interaction and imagination. It is an artist-run space, exhibition hall and nomadic cultural production site moving around abandoned buildings in Paris. Le Wonder provides the artist with studio space, while also serving as a place in which to interact viewers. Currently a resident at Museum of Contemporary Art in Lyon, the artist says, “Today we have settled at the Musée de Lyon; we live in the exhibition hall and we wake up in the middle of a visiting public. I used the budget allocated to myself to invite a German artist friend named Nico Sauer. Together we offer weekly guided tours of the MAC-MOINS-CHER (Contemporary art museum cheaper in English). We invite people on the street to come in through the back door to get them into the museum for free. We improvise ourselves as mediators and offer them an alternative tour of the exhibitions and the history of art by telling nonsense stories." 

À La Vitesse Du Desir (2016) by Pernisco | Nelson Pernisco | STIRworld
À La Vitesse Du Desir (2016) by Pernisco Image: Courtesy of Nelson Pernisco

Pernisco’s work regards the idea of transience, and specifies this notion in the materials used. He is inspired by the Earthwork movement of the 70s, which is reflected in his use of plants and other natural materials like sand and rock. Earthwork, also known as land art, uses naturally occurring materials to shape land, or create abstract forms. Land art such as that of Andy Goldsworthy, a notable sculptor and photographer from the UK, embodies the idea of time and impermanence in his site-specific land art installations. One of the challenges of land art is that it is difficult, sometimes impossible, to preserve or relocate. This is also what proves rewarding to an artist who is trying to convey a beautiful yet slightly melancholy idea of time.

Pernisco channels the energy of Earthwork | Nelson Pernisco | STIRworld
Pernisco channels the energy of Earthwork Image: Courtesy of Nelson Pernisco

Pernisco also finds himself to be inspired by his contemporaries. He says, “I feel drawn to the visual expression of truly contemporary artists such as Atelier Van Lieshout, Mark Manders, Dewar & Gicquel." He continues, “I think I was also considerably influenced by the forms we meet in the city. My link with it is made through histories of construction and destruction, evolving in a collective of artists who rehabilitate and move from industrial site to office building almost every two years."

Il N’y A Que La Canaille Pour Mettre Son Nom Sur Les Murailles (2019) | Nelson Pernisco | STIRworld
Il N’y A Que La Canaille Pour Mettre Son Nom Sur Les Murailles (2019) Image: Courtesy of Nelson Pernisco

The French artist works with a playful approach to material and form, using juxtaposition and rejecting normative associations. This allows for the work to question traditional ideas of lifestyle as seen in urban environments.

Nelson Pernisco recently co-curated an exhibition with Andy Rankin, titled Avalanche which is on view at Pal Project Gallery until September 25, 2021. Pernisco is currently also working towards developing new metal casting techniques which has led him to set up a foundry of his own. He will be presenting works crafted in this foundry at Artissima, a contemporary art festival which takes place in Turin, Italy. Artissima 2021 will take place between 5th to 7th November.

Esperanto (2016) by Pernisco | Nelson Pernisco | STIRworld
Esperanto (2016) by Pernisco Image: Courtesy of Nelson Pernisco

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