Artist Miguel Chevalier’s Digital Blossoms

SLIDESHOW: In April this year, in Omotesando, Tokyo, Chevalier unveiled ‘Extra Nature’, an immersive digital art installation staring plants of a new genre.

The Mexican-born French artist uses computer-generated flowers and colours as a means to paint self-generative frescoes.

Decades before digital art was even recognised by the art world, Mexican-born French artist Miguel Chevalier used computer-generated flowers and colours as a means to paint self-generative frescoes and create immersive installations.

In April this year, in Omotesando, Tokyo, Chevalier unveiled ‘Extra Nature’, an immersive digital art installation staring plants of a new genre. Commissioned by Champagne brand Perrier-Jouët, the artwork unfolded like a natural world in permanent transmutation: on the long LED screen, intense LED hues and estranged flowers plunged the viewer into a parallel world.

“At the end of the 1990s, I discovered that botanists used software to simulate the growth of plants. I realised I could use computer-generated tools to imagine art works. I started drawing seeds that didn’t exist using the same methodology,” says Chevalier. “I imagined new plants that could thrive in extreme conditions. Like a scientist, I catalogued my own plants; like a landscape artist, I imagined virtual gardens,” he adds.

In this first chapter of Chevalier’s artistic life, vegetation grew in real time as a computer calculated and generated new formulas. Then, as technology evolved, a second generation of plants called ‘Fractal Flowers’ (2006–07) came along: more robotic, less realistic, they were inspired by geometric patterns, polygons and facets. A third generation, ‘Trans-Nature’ (2011), was later born from hybrid sources: “I mixed 3D and 2D elements, added collage, drawings, images. The result was an open-source hybridisation, an interpretation of nature itself.”

The next series, called ‘Extra-Natural’, started to blossom in 2015: this fourth chapter was inspired by the ‘Sur-Nature’ series using better technological tools (i.e. software that wasn’t available in the 1990s). Together with programmer Cyril Henry, Chevalier created new grounds for virtual seeds with enhanced colours, shapes, curves and movement: the ‘Extra-Natural’ series could now be projected and tailored to different spaces and volumes.

After discovering Chevalier’s work a few years back, Axelle de Buffévent, Perrier-Jouët’s style director, talked the artist into creating an installation that would virtually explore nature’s processes further. In Tokyo, Chevalier’s installation was a showstopper. Set up on a mezzanine level of a Tadao Ando-designed building in the narrow streets behind Omotesando Avenue, the vivid screen almost seemed to be one with the lush vegetation surrounding it. Perrier-Jouët had transformed the interiors into ‘L’Eden’, a creative take on the garden of Eden. From the entrance, nature invaded the space with plants, vines and flowers that composed an urban garden.

Taking centre stage, Chevalier’s ‘Extra-Natural’ unfolded like a wall invasion with digitally generated plants growing and swooping across the long screen (a couple of metres long). As viewers passed in front of it, nature quietly reacted, balancing in different directions, growing or blowing seeds new plants could then emerge from. On the LED screen, one could follow a white flower multiplying into a bouquet. “My aesthetic is digital,” says Chevalier. “I don’t want my flowers to look real; it’s all about reinventing a natural kingdom.”

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