by Vatsala SethiDec 31, 2022
The conception of an ‘environment’ begins with the knowledge of being in constant interaction with it, whether we are aware or not. French artist Vincent Leroy brings the large-scale installation nature of the interactions that take place between one and their environment to the fore, through his monumental kinetic art. In Leroy’s work, materials are used in a fascinating interplay between the natural and industrial, the environmentally available and the fabricated, where sculptures are introduced into a variety of spaces - whether it is the art gallery or exhibition space or naturally forming environments. Leroy’s abstract interactive sculptures are inspired by the very environments that shape them and occur conversationally between natural forces at play, such as temperature, light, colour, and the material.
Often, the audience is introduced to a new synthetic environment on a level of purely emotional and sensorial form of interaction, creating an immersive experience. Informational flows that now form the bulk of experience are rejected, despite the industrial scale of production in the works that incorporate complex design with material considerations. It is the sensorial that is foregrounded through this rejection. Light, colour, sound, perspectival nature, weather conditions, and more become the material for these large scale installations, since they would be incomplete without them.
In works such as Solar Storm, the sun always rises in the east, and Nebula, Leroy harnesses information from the environment to create his own fabrications of naturally occurring phenomena. In Nebula, black amorphous structures float in the air, carefully installed in the exhibition space, and the spatiality of the experience is evoked and brought to light. The sun always rises in the east is a light art, public installation sculpture, permanently installed in Kunming, China, where a monumental sun is created with the layering of overlapping industrial panels containing coloured glass, the entire sculpture occurring in orange. In the midst of the commercial or corporate block, the occurrence of the glowing installative sun in conversation with the actual sun becomes a sensorial experience.
I was able to have an exchange with the artist over email, where Leroy spoke about his personal inclinations towards large-scale installation art, experiences that have informed his practice, and his engagements with materials.
Sukanya Deb: Could you tell us about your engagement with materiality in your installations? How has that developed in your practice? I am interested in the use of material to denote industrial vs. natural.
Vincent Leroy: I was born in Avranches in Normandy. I spent my childhood on a farm with tools and space. I have been tinkering since I was very young. From the age of eight, I built planes, cabins, musical instruments. This taste for the production of objects naturally led me to take an interest in design. I then went to Paris to study industrial design at ENSCI-Les Ateliers. The school had workshops with machines for working metal, wood, along with other kinds of support. When I saw that, it was like a dream!
The transition to art also happened very naturally. Along with my studies, I designed and produced small kinetic mobiles that I started selling left and right. Little by little, I began to exhibit in galleries, to create larger pieces and monumental works in France, besides exhibiting internationally.
My works often start with experimentation and it is true that I like to play with industrial materials, to divert them and give them a poetic dimension. It’s certainly linked to my training as an industrial designer and the fact that these were the kinds of materials that I used to recover as a child to make my crafts.
Sukanya: Could you speak to the site specificity that seems to inform your works?
Vincent: For me, the interaction between the artwork and its environment is essential. The site in which it is located is an integral part of the installation. It is the dialogue between the two that creates the artwork. The work modifies the reading of the surrounding landscape and the environment interferes with the reading of the installation.
For example, last summer we made a travelling installation, Lenscape, which we set up in different Icelandic landscapes. The installation consisted of optical lenses and it was incredible to see how the result produced completely changed depending on the place, the light, the colours… To travel and discover different landscapes is always a great source of inspiration for me. When I am in a place and it calls out to me, I take a lot of photographs from all possible angles to soak it up. Then I wonder what element could create surprise or bring poetry to the place.
Sukanya: Does the 'screen' function as a device in your work?
Vincent: I use the digital as a research and communication tool. It allows me to experiment, to test ideas, to develop, but it is rarely a goal in itself. It is important to me that everything I draw in the virtual is realistic from a manufacturing point of view, as well as the effect produced or the rendering. I like when the virtual is in dialogue with the real.
Sukanya: How do you see the role of immersive experience in your art practice?
Vincent: My work is based more on emotion and experience than on an intellectual approach. Through my installations, I try to be in an emotional relationship with the public. I love to change their perception of reality and their environment by bringing in unexpected poetry.
Sukanya: Could you tell us a bit about your practice and your philosophical or material engagements?
Vincent: Based on movement, my approach is, above all, experimental and intuitive. The movements of my installations are often slow, hypnotic, and calling for contemplation. In a way, my work is a mix of poetry and low-technology. You could call it “slow art”.