Chimerical Creatures

There exist on earth “chimerical creatures” which only a handful of people have been able to observe and which are maybe never to be seen again. We have very little information that allows us to describe them and it is only through the writings and images of these few specialists that we can guess or imagine the form and color of these strange creatures. Sometimes marvelous sometimes monstrous, red, yellow or blue, transparent or luminescent, microscopic or colossal, with wings, claws, jaws, tentacles or gigantic eyes, these creatures carry the elaborate names that men have given them: Vampyroteuthis infernalis, Enypniastes eximia , Grimpoteuthis , Satyrichthys , Periphylla periphylla …

These strange creatures looking like dragons, vampires or snakes live in total obscurity, in a world of darkness which is actually the largest habitat on the planet: that of the deep ocean. With an average depth of 3800 meters, the oceans cover 99 % of the space where life can develop on earth. The number of species inhabiting the deep sea constitutes the greatest diversity of life forms that have ever existed. Unfortunately, because of direct or indirect human intervention, such as global warming, water pollution and destructive fishing by bottom trawling, these species and their habitats are threatened. These creatures, true mysteries of evolution, that still exist or have existed, are under constant threat of extinction and it is possible that their disappearance is already taking place at the time of writing. Like the legendary beings, they belong to an in-between world, that of the real and the imaginary.

With the artwork Chimerical Creatures, the artist aims to sensitize communities on the abundance of the realm of the abyss and the need to preserve the oceans, by bringing the creatures of the deep sea to the surface of the earth in the form of a work of art. Based on the writings, photographs and scientific videos collected over the past few decades during dive expeditions with submersibles, these underwater creatures are reproduced in the form of sculptures and drawings to populate the world of human beings. Brought to light from the underwater depths to the exhibition space – other than the Museum of Natural History – these beings of darkness few people know about, will be immortalized before the watchful eyes of the visitors. Accompanied by extracts of texts describing fantastic creatures in the literature, mythology and ancient legends across cultures, an interesting parallel is drawn between natural species and imaginary creatures; poetics of the bizarre that aims to provoke confusion, and awaken a sense of wonder and curiosity in the minds of the visitors.

Unfolded Dimensions

With Unfolded Dimensions, Sophia Lahlil and Ruven Pillay will explore the hidden dimensions of one of the artist’s paintings using the latest in state of the art imaging technology. The artist-scientific duo aims to challenge our perception of the color and materiality at both the macro and microscopic scale using computational imaging techniques usually used only in satellite imagery and planetary space exploration. This new approach will show that, hidden within a simple “Oil painting on canvas”, there is data providing unlimited possibilities for re-interpretation. Through the prism of new technology, the original painting will give birth to an almost infinite number of new works of art where the colors, the composition and materiality have been revisited through image processing.

Shown for the first time, Unfolded Dimensions will consist of a series of very high definition close-up processed images of the painting Variation 4 by Sophia Lahlil (2012). This painting was analyzed with a hyperspectral imaging system capable of capturing 160 individual wavelengths from the ultra-violet through to the infrared in ultra high definition. These are combined with 3D stereo anaglyphs that will reveal the dramatic microscopic topology and rugged surface-scape of the painting when seen with stereoscopic 3D glasses. By immersing the public in the physicality of the painting, this experience, at the crossroads of art and science and of traditional painting and new media art, will provide a very different and unique perspective on our perception of contemporary painting.

Homage to the Van Gogh Brothers

The artwork created by Sophia Lahlil is an installation in homage to the Van Gogh brothers, with fraternity as its subject. During a period of eighteen years, Vincent and Theo exchanged more than one thousand letters in which, day after day, they put down in writing their feelings, their work and their lives. This relationship is today well known and has been described in numerous media. However, although many artists continue to be inspired by Vincent’s paintings, only few deal with his relationship with his brother.

By its approach and its representation, this creation uses the language of the contemporary rational society. In the same way as we nowadays measure the relationships between people using networks and numbers, this artwork uses scientifically quantified elements drawn from the correspondence between Vincent and Theo. Based on the digitized letters and on studies made by the researchers of the Van Gogh Museum of Amsterdam, Sophia Lahlil has evaluated the total surface of paper and quantity of ink used by Vincent and Theo during their correspondence and has reconstructed the frequency of the sent messages. Through the transposition of the exchange, from language to its material quantification, the artist proposes a reflection on the immaterial link that united the two brothers.

The installation is constituted of different components: on the ground, a pile of paper and a large test tube filled with the amount of ink estimated to have been used during the correspondence; on the wall, sixteen panels list the effective or estimated dates on which each letter has been sent; and in the exhibition space, a sound composition that repeats the names Vincent and Theo interspersed by silences according to the frequency of exchange of letters and of their respective author. In this installation, the linguistic exchange is erased in favor of a physical dimension that is produced by the decomposition of the correspondence into a number of tangible and audible elements commemorating the relationship: paper, ink, dates, sound composition. The deliberate detachment and mechanicity of the proposed forms, the absence of color in favor of black and white, in turn summon an experience of duration that create a whole and highlights the density and intensity of the exchanges of the brothers’ relationship.

Shanghai Blues

Shanghai Blues is a series of square photographs that evoke the representation of the sky in the Taoist philosophy and ancient Chinese tradition. But if the representational form alludes to the sacred, the artist, in reality, is pointing out the environmental issues to which contemporary Chinese society is confronted.
Because of the high pollution all year long, the sky of Shanghai is very seldom blue. It was during one of those rare days that I was able to photograph the sky and capture a moment of “pure” air. Behind their apparent simplicity, these photographs evoke personal memories: the unconscious appeal of the home country and of my childhood vacations at the seaside.
With melancholy and humor, this artwork aims at questioning the views and development of the youth that are growing up in the vast Chinese megalopolis. Providing a “piece of blue sky” to the visitors, I wish to offer them a very precious type of artifact, something that is now only rarely seen, and that can now – because turned into artwork, be put indoor in their own house.

S-Supernova

 

S – Supernova is the first video of a series of words depicting a new kind of visual dictionary. Starting randomly by the letter “S” and the word “Supernova”, Sophia Lahlil has realized a video and photo-montage based on the results obtained on Google search while typing the word “Supernova”. Behind its artificiality and entertaining presentation, this video questions our way of dealing with a mass of information and images. This artwork aims at addressing questions on the evolution of language in the contemporary society from oral to visual, from exclusive to universal: each word and the concept it conveys are not attached to a specific definition but to a multitude of meanings.