Since we last featured Gilles de Brock his practice has evolved in leaps and bounds (not that it wasn’t amazing before). In his own words, “my work has developed both commercially and autonomously,” and where he used to favour the “code versus craft” story, now, he is embracing an unbridled curiosity to constantly learn new skills and stop being scared of where it will lead.
Previously, Gilles was of the mindset that autonomous work feeds the commercial in a one way system. But more recently, he’s been surprised by the challenging briefs presented by his commercial clients, and he’s come to see the relationship between commercial and personal work as a continuous feedback loop that travels in both directions. And in this vein of thought, he’s adapted a liberating new approach that sees him tell stories through surfaces.
Looking for new surfaces to play with and apply stories to, Gilles found himself travelling down a rabbit hole of mediums and embarking on learning some brand new processes. His first objective, rather unexpectedly, became learning how to make carpets. “I spent days immersed on Youtube, looking at how carpets are made,” says Gilles. Then, dividing that process into smaller blocks such as wool dyeing along with some secondary woodworking skills needed to carry out the process, he pulled all his new-found knowledge together to create some hand tufted carpets with hand painted wool. “The process has taught me so many seemingly useless skills that have now become part of my practice,” he tells It’s Nice That on his recent work.
After mastering his unique form of carpet making, he then turned his attentions to a totally different, and notoriously precarious discipline, ceramics. “Fascinated by the colours and textures of ceramic glazes, but completely underwhelmed by the existing techniques to translate a digital design onto a ceramic glaze, I decided to create my own printer for ceramic glazes,” says Gilles. By no means an easy feat, it took Gilles a year to learn the highly technical skills that go the ceramic making process. Teaching himself the basics of mechanical and electrical engineering, not to mention the craft of clay and kilns in general, eventually, Gilles came up with a commanding solution.
He built a machine which printed acrylic paint on paper and textiles, which was initially used as a means to test the equipment, but later became a work within itself. Without realising it, the glaze printer became more about the work of automation within a design process. “Understanding how to build your own printer became a metaphor for taking back the production process into your own practice and democratising the tools of automation,” Gilles goes on to say. And from this, the multi-disciplinary artist has been inspired to explore the automation of designs creating themselves as well.
“Having this new production process has formed me to rethink the generative design approach,” he continues. Utilising his hard-earned programming skills, Gilles’ practice has evolved around a cycle of deconstruction and reconstruction of design and ultimately, his work pulls apart the design process to its very core. Then, once he’s dissected the process as far as possible, Gilles creates a recipe to put the the process back together in a uniquely Gilles way. “Those recipes are then translated into code, allowing for parameters that can be changed either randomly or manually” adds Gilles on the process, who proudly enjoys the way this method changes the role of the designer. The designer no longer has to push around pixels so to speak, and instead, becomes more like a curator of whatever is produced.
Currently applying these techniques to his commercial work where the client can receive up to 500 sketches a day (a very impressive amount), Gilles is continuing to push the boundaries of both analogue and digital techniques. Hoping to develop his printer into a five head system like an offset printer that can print on ceramic tiles in the coming year, he is also scheduled to exhibit at Portland’s Fisk, Amsterdam’s Unfair and My monkey gallery based in Nancy.
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.