For Paris-based visual artist Nicolas Garner, the creative world has always interested him. Despite this, the path to what he can now call his practice wasn’t necessarily linear. “It certainly took me a while to articulate my aspirations and to find which outlet would suit me best,” he tells It’s Nice That. Having initially explored plastic arts (sculpture and modelling using the physical manipulation of plastic) and photography, Nicolas moved to the more structured world of graphic design and typography, focusing on book design and production. However, he gradually switched back to a more and more conceptual and visual practice which is what recently caught our eye.
Nicolas works across a broad range of mediums, something he attributes to this convoluted creative path which allowed him to amass a multitude of practical skills. He uses different techniques depending on the project including CGI, installation, motion capture and what he describes as “obscure geek softwares” – iPhone apps, 3D scanning, hybrid photography and video games. His work is largely a “desperate quest for the materialisation of the digital world and conversely, the attempt to digitise the organic.” It’s this clash, the “irreconcilable opposition between the digital and the organic” that provides a conceptual starting point for Nicolas’ intriguing hyperreal fabrications of the human body.
Through the use of CGI and 3D fabrication softwares, Nicolas’ work explores the paradox that these types of tools create. They are the products of numerical readings – ones and zeros – and so their use in conjunction with biological matter such as flesh and bone seems a strange mix. He questions how these techniques can possibly “understand and thus transcribe the organic materiality of the body in a digital way?”
In his series Hyperreality and Genesis 1:27, which have been exhibited as installations, Nicolas treads the thin line between photography and CGI. In both bodies of work he is “challenging our trust of digitally constructed imagery in the context of our post-photographic era.” His glossy images of the human form blur the boundaries between realness and falseness by appearing at once too slick to be photos but also too realistic not to be. “What I find fascinating in the digital representation of the body, is that it is vain by essence. It’s very legitimate to wonder about the relevance of the use of these technologies in the quest for a faithful representation,” he explains.
Reset and Synthetic Skin, however, aim to highlight the distortion of reality and the failing and obsolescence of digital technologies. Both are the products of experimentation into “misappropriating and hijacking” digital tools in order to pursue a new outcome. The images in Reset are inspired by the failures and bugs in video games, staging unnatural poses where bodies collide and distort. Whereas in Synthetic Skin, Nicolas used photography as a starting point alongside a 3D-facial recognition app where “the body positions, facial expressions and lights were editable artificially,” creating contorted digital beings which leave you unsure if you are looking at a real human or not.
Despite their spectrum of outcomes, all of these projects are examples of how contemporary methods of image production are “unfit to identify [the body’s] asperities, its grain, its folds, its movements, its fragility, its hairiness, its articulation. They can only copy a falsified, obsolete, wobbly image.” His work is both a critique and celebration of contemporary culture, passing comment on our “show-society”, the notion of identity and virtual alter-ego and self-improvement, often incorporating religious references to the concept of Creation.
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.