„I love to tell a story through one image or hide a secret ritual into it.“

Christel Morvan ist eine französische Illustratorin, Motion Designerin und Videokünstlerin. Mit ihren faszinierenden Bildern und Animationen erforscht sie die Beziehung zwischen Musik und visueller Bildsprache und lässt sich dabei von Dunkelheit, Morbidem, Surrealismus und Mythologien inspirieren. Seit 2017 kreiert die in Belgien lebende Künstlerin mit ihren Kunstwerken einen Dialog zwischen Klang und Bild zu der Musik von EMPUSAE. Nicolas Van Meirhaeghes (hier zum Interview) komplexe Klanglandschaften, und Christel Morvans Bildsprache sind eng miteinander verwoben und ein emotionales, untrennbares Gesamtkunstwerk überwältigender Dunkelheit.


In ihrem aktuellen Video hat die Künstlerin die düsteren und melancholischen Klänge und Vocals von „Guiding Light“ in ein ebenso dunkles visuelles Gewand gekleidet. Das  Video zu diesem großartigen Track vom Album Lueur  ist eine Reise in die Dunkelheit und vereint Spuren des Lichts mit Trauer, Sehnsucht, Suche  & Hoffnung.

In unserem Interview spricht Christel mit uns über das aktuelle EMPUSAE-Video, Kreativität, ihre künstlerische Routine und die Künstler*innen und frühen Erfahrungen, die ihre Arbeit inspirieren und beeinflussen.

Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you grow up? Was there a particular experience or moment when you decided to follow your path as an artist?
I grew up in a small town in France, Chartres, which is dominated by a big gothic cathedral and full of esoteric legends. I don’t know if it influenced me, but I was fascinated by the morbid quite early, and I used to steal my father’s encyclopedia of magic and esoteric decorations. I always drew and wrote a lot as a child, and when the moment came to choose a professional education, I naturally went to art school. But the real key moment for me was the day I saw the exhibition of Giger at the Halles St-Pierres in Paris (2004). I will never forget the emotions I had when I saw his giant paintings. I knew at that moment that this is what I had to do. I had to create, I had to provoke the same emotions I had at that moment!

What topics are you currently drawn to in your work?
Horror is one of my favourite topics. Talking about horror is talking about human nature… it’s like exploring a dark and forbidden part of the psyche. That’s what fascinates me the most! I love to tell a story through one image or hide a secret ritual into it. One other thing that I like to draw are mechanical pieces.


Your art is very unique. Where does your inspiration come from?
I am always inspired by esotericism and darkness in general, also quantum, astrophysics, mechanics and engineering. I like to melt very opposite concepts. I’m also inspired a lot by mythologies.

What are some artists, whose work really excites you?
For the pictural aspect I love James Jean, Austin Osman Spare, Nekro, Masanobu Hiraoka, Bellinski and of course Giger, and for the cinema Ari Aster, David Lynch, Aronovski. I love Japanese animation, Katsuhiro Otomo, Mamoru Oshii, and Satoshi Kon whose movies are timeless masterpieces!

What are your thoughts on creativity, and how do you channel it? Do you have any rituals, something that helps you get the creativity flowing?
I don’t really have one ritual. Inspiration can come from anywhere. Sometimes I’m listening to music and I have images coming up in my head. Sometimes I have such vivid nightmares they stay in my mind for days. Sometimes I’m walking around and I’ll just let my mind wander. And have crazy ideas. It’s really difficult to catch them before they go away!


What are your first musical memories?
One of my first memories was listening to Jean-Michel Jarre in the family car. My dad had recorded the album Oxygene on a tape and we used to listen to it while coming back from any trip. I imagined then a visual story of someone travelling into another universe, crossing different worlds in rhythm with the music. I think I already knew back then that I had to make music videos!

What is sound to you? What kind of music you are listening to?
It really depends on my mood. There are a lot of kinds of music I am listening to. The most inspiring to me is dark music, especially from movies or videos games, like Colin Stetson or Rob. I love it when music is going to unknown territory and is becoming somehow disturbing! Like the album of Daniel Licht for Silent Hill Downpour that I listen to a lot these days.
I love ritualistic dark melodies like Empusae, who still inspires me the most, Kali Malone, Treha Sektori, Atrium Carceri or Cryo Chamber. I listen to different sorts of Metal, from Industrial to Post Metal, Yob, Gojira, Pothamus, Fear Factory, Ovtrenoir. Sometimes some old dusty Jazz, sometimes Witchhouse, sometimes more electronic sounds like Perturbator or Gesaffelstein…

When did you discover your passion for creating design, visuals and live projections for music? What is it about the relationship between music and design that drew you to it?
Music has always been my first source of inspiration. When I listen to it I’m seeing images, imagine stories, so it was always a dream for me to make music videos. With Empusae I have the great opportunity to make live videos, which is even a step further because it allows me to improvise a love and make the visuals accordingly to my mood. I also like the fact that with this process every show is unique, you won’t see the same twice! It’s a little similar to making music but with images. Album artworks also always fascinated me, I bought so many albums because I loved the cover! I just wanted so much to see my art on the cover of an album as well!


How does the visual aspect and your art relate and reflect the music of Empusae?
Empusae is still the musical project that inspires me the most. I feel lucky when I can listen to Nicolas’s music before anybody else. Usually when I do so, I automatically have images coming to my head. And usually when I create the image, he is amazed by the fact that I created something he also has in his head but was not able to describe. I could say that our arts really speak to each other. A little like if it were a reflection.

What can the visual layer add to the music?
What I am trying to do when doing live visuals or video for Empusae, is to bring people to another universe, make them travel into an imaginary world. And by doing so, I think the music itself will impact people on another level, imprint their mind.

Do you prefer working in a certain technique when creating an album cover? How has your practice changed over time?
I am usually starting by listening to the music and let myself getting impregnated by it. Then a first draft will rapidly follow. The technic I am using the most is digital painting. But I also draw a lot. What has evolved though through time is that now I usually anticipate my image to be animated.


You share life and art with Nicolas. In what unique way do you both complement each other?
We have the same rhythm and the same needs. We give ourselves the space to create. But usually when one of us is in a creative mood, it is contagious! We are also fans of each other’s work and here to support each other when one feels down or bad.

How did the idea or concept for your latest animation of Empusae‘s track “Guiding light” get seeded and what was the process like that goes into turning those thoughts into pictures? 
Same as always, the idea came to me by listening to the music. This tells a story of travelling into darkness and despair, but even there is still a hope, a light, something to live for. When I am working on an animation, I start with the global feeling I want to obtain. Then I write a script and then comes the storyboard. All those steps are made with the music, to make sure every moment is synchronised and we are getting the same emotions at the same moment. Also, even if this stays abstract, I like my animations to tell a story. So the order of the shots have a lot of importance. The transitions also take a big part in the creative process.

How would you describe the world you are trying to create during your live performances with Empusae?
In few words a “magnificent nightmare”.

Do you have a favourite piece that you have created?
My favourite piece of work so far is “Iso”. Because I usually finish things in a rush, but I really took my time on this one. So I feel like I really reached all the aspects I wanted to by taking my time.

What has been your most touching moment you have experienced as an artist? What memorable responses have you had to your work?
One of my most memorable day was when we went together on stage to present the animation „Soma“ at TEDxBrussels in 2018! At one of the most prestigious places in Brussels: Bozar. Another incredible moment was when we released the album Lueur, also in a very prestigious place, in AB, where I had the privilege to direct the whole evening with several bands playing, around one concept. And at the first projection of “Iter in Tenebris”, when people reached to us to say that they never experienced anything similar before, and it was a true unique event!


What is in the pipeline for you at the moment? What are your hopes and dreams, and what do you wish for?
I just got selected to be in the next Prosthetic Reality, a book that will regroup a lot of different artists and illustrators doing AR illustrations. I also recently worked as VJ for the festival Waves of Darkness II, and I would love to do this more in the future! I love working at live events, this is really what motivates me the most! I also made an illustration for one of Nico’s side projects which has yet to be announced, and another cover for a band. It feels so nice to be creative again after a long absence!

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