Updated: Nov 26, 2020
“An artist working on architectural scale”
Cyril Lancelin is a name well-known among contemporary artists, an artist famous for the design of monumental inflatable artworks. His view of disrupting boundaries of what is real or possible, challenges him to mix sculpture and images into a dreamy and unconventional landscape. His experiential art is used at architectural scale through parametric tools, thus the audience is easily engaged with his immersive installations.
Below you can find a detailed interview with Cyril Lancelin, about his vision as an artist, his technique and future plans:
∙ Tell us something about your younger years. What was your childhood like? What did you do in your spare time? What made you decide to study architecture later on?
I really enjoyed playing construction games since my childhood. I started making small installations with sheets of dot matrix print paper. This desire for construction pushed me to study architecture.
∙ As a student, you enjoyed visiting art exhibitions. It seems that you were particularly interested in the immersive works of various artists. Do you think your architectural studies triggered your interest in art? Or was it there all along?
Yes, I like to visit art exhibitions and especially immersive artworks. My architectural studies led me to look at the work of star architects, but also artistic trends such as minimalism, arte povera (contemporary art movement). The switch happened when I visited the Gregor Schneider exhibition at the Art Museum Modern from Paris in 1998. Later, I went to visit the Donald Judd foundation in Marfa, it was another important moment of my artistic life.
∙ You started your studio ‘Town and Concrete’ in 2016 after working 15 years for influential architects. What made you decide to change course and to try something new?
I spent a lot of time thinking about utopian projects, houses, facilities. I drew a few ideas, which I posted on Instagram and it quickly became obvious.
∙ In these 4 years, you have been slowly but surely conquering the world with your impressive installations. What do you consider a major highlight in this period?
A lot has happened over the past 4 years, a lot of joy overall. It is always a wonder when a still virtual project becomes reality. I cannot highlight a particular project, I like to establish a connection between the projects.
∙ Does it fulfil you more than being an architect? In retrospect, do you regret that you didn’t start sooner?
I should have started earlier. On the other hand, it allowed me to learn and to meet a lot of people, in different connected professions: in the world of architecture, art, fashion, start-ups, advertising.
∙ You describe yourself as an artist working on architectural scale. Would you rather identify yourself as an architect more than an artist, as architecture can also be considered a form of art?
Some projects are very architectural, but being an artist above all allows me to be completely free of constraints.
∙ Were you confident that this new career path would lead to success? We are curious to hear more about this journey. Did it go as planned or were there obstacles you had to overcome?
No, I was not confident. I had the chance to meet many important people in the world of architecture, great architects, but also critics, journalists, famous clients, it gave me confidence and the desire to start. You have to know how to be very reactive, receive criticism and know how to progress. The more I advance, the less hard it is.
∙ How would you characterise immersive art installations and why do you think it is so important to have them in public spaces?
The public space offers freedom of time for the visitor. In addition, I find that the sculptures are always magnificent during the "golden hours", if the public space allows it. To be immersive, the public must be able to get lost in the work.
∙ In which ways do you think you set yourself apart from your fellow artsy colleagues? What characterises your installations and makes them distinctive?
I like to go from figurative to abstract, use an element of pop culture as a material, I work on rules that I apply in my composition. I use a lot of parametric tools to set up these rules, this allows me to do a lot of tests and modifications. I draw all the projects myself, directly in 3D, this allows me to be really at the heart of the installation or sculpture. I don't always want to repeat the same project, the same writing.
∙ As a person, which habits do you have that contribute to your success? What motivates you to do what you do?
I love nature, walking in the forest, far from the city, it brings me serenity but also ideas. I like to discover in real life the construction of a new installation, it is a real source of motivation.
∙ You said in a previous interview that you feel you have been influenced mostly by having lived in different cities. Could you elaborate more on how this has influenced you?
I notably lived in Paris and Los Angeles. Two completely different cities, two distant lifestyles. I have also wondered about the differences. There are things which seem to us acquired or logical and yet an experience in another city is different, this forces us to compare and think about other possible solutions.
∙ Which city inspired you most in relation to the creation of your art installations?
Los Angeles is the city that inspires me the most. There are many unexpected things happening.
∙ Which installation is most special and precious to you? And what was your main motivation to create this installation?
I like my Half Pyramid installation done in Shenzhen. It is both very simple, but it provides intense exploration. Each time you move, the alignment of the spheres and the reflections cause a very strong kinetic effect. It is simply an immersion in the deeper parts of the pyramid, it's about going into materiality.
∙ We read interesting things about the materials you use, how you put the constructions together and the role of parametric computer tools in your artwork. But how does your creative process start exactly? For instance, what made you decide to go for giant inflatable sculptures?
Some works need to be monumental in size. For the accomplishment of a project, the budget is a very important parameter. I immediately draw my ideas for this in 3D, in the form of parametric modules. I could vary the size and the shape, the simplicity and complexity and thus be able to adapt my work to the budgets and the building materials used to build it. The inflatable structures allow me to reach large sizes, but also it makes the installation nomadic. I really find it unfortunate that many artistic installations are destroyed after their exhibition. With the inflatable, the work will travel more easily, but it also gives flexibility to the work. It reacts to the wind, to people's touch, to light with a little opalescence, to its own weight, it seems alive.
∙ You have to choose: would you rather work with stainless steel or PVC fabrics?
For now, I prefer PVC fabrics. I have several projects in progress in stainless steel, there will certainly be a balance between the two.
∙ What do your installations represent? Do you think that art always necessarily has to convey a particular message to the audience?
It is not my main goal to send a message, I like that the public feels free. It always annoys me when a work in a museum is overly described or for example, when a poem is deciphered. I like to create experiential moments.
∙ With your immersive installations you create surreal surroundings in which fiction and reality are intertwined. What do you hope people think about your work?
Yes, I like to mix fiction and reality. Certain images of a work that does not exist bring the work of fiction to life. There are famous architect houses for example that I know by heart through certain photos, but if the house did not exist, for me it would not change anything, it would always remain as inspiring. With social networks, this is even more important, the images mark us. I like that people have fun taking pictures of the work and participate in the creation of inspiring images to transmit.
∙ How have you developed yourself over the course of the years as an artist?
I spent a lot of time sketching projects; as soon as I have an idea, I write it down. I try to organise well the planning of my work, it allows me to go faster. I'm trying to find methods.
∙ Does your latest work differ from what you created earlier on?
No, I'm trying to make a connection between the works. For example, my work Half Line exhibited in 2018 at the Mr80 Gallery evolved in the work Half Pyramid of Shenzhen. There are also new alternative pyramids from the Philadelphia Sphere Pyramid under construction, so yes, I like to link projects.
∙ Are there still things you would like to learn?
I would like to master augmented reality. There are many possibilities in this area. I would invest time and learn to develop augmented reality projects.
∙ What would be the ultimate icing on the cake for you in terms of installation art? What is your biggest artsy dream?
I would like to group several works in the same place to make a large exhibition. I am working on a project for a new workshop with a plant park, to be able to work and test some new works directly outside. I even dream of organising parties in this place!