Nihil ist ein französischer Schriftsteller, Digitalkünstler und Fotograf. Sein künstlerisches Universum ist dunkel, surreal. Wiederkehrende Themen sind Schmerz, Leiden, Verzweiflung, Trostlosigkeit, Isolation, Einsamkeit und Stille. Der in Oslo lebende Künstler zeigt in seinen Werken Körper, die meisten von ihnen haben kahle Schädel, kein Gesicht oder ihre Gesichtszüge sind ausdruckslos und ihrer Individualität beraubt. Nicht selten fangen seine Bilder den Kontrast von anmutiger Stille und aufwühlender Angst und Bedrohung ein. Leidende Körper mit Wunden, trostlose karge Landschaften – dunkle Farben stehen im Kontrast zu weißen Kunstwerken, die die Dunkelheit berühren und gleichzeitig Fragilität, Schönheit und Sinnlichkeit ausstrahlen.

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In unserem Interview blickt der Künstler zurück auf seine Kindheit, Jugend und die ersten musikalischen Erinnerungen und spricht über Kreativität, seine  künstlerische Routine und  frühen Erfahrungen, die seine Arbeit inspirieren und beeinflussen. Herzlichen Dank , NIHIL!

Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you grow up? Was there a particular experience or moment that caused you to begin creating?
When I was seven, my parents moved to a small isolated village in the center of France. It was a difficult experience for me, it was a tight-knit backwards community. I was an introverted and shy child, and soon I got bullied and harassed by other kids. After a particularly rough day, I decided I would stop trying to belong and stay on my own. I retreated to my room, opened a notebook and started writing fantasy stories. I never stopped creating after that. I probably would have been an artist anyway, but I guess it was a significant experience.

What topics are you currently drawn to in your work?
I’m not trying to follow an art direction anymore. A few years ago, I was mostly interested in making dark art and exploring religious thematics. Now, I realize that the direction my art is taking is not something I should control or intellectualize, things are happening with or without my approval anyway. My main topic is transcendence, the transition from a mortal and decaying flesh to a more spiritual state of being. It’s still a topic that fascinates me but I’m not against going in other directions if an artwork needs it.

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What do you love so much about creating art? What are you looking for in art? What are you trying to explore?
Being an artist is more in line with my personality than being an employee or a family man, I guess! I’m a trained biologist but I didn’t feel like I wanted to spend my life doing that. I didn’t really choose to be an artist but it feels more natural to me. It gives me a form of identity and some pleasant opportunities. But otherwise, it’s mostly pain and doubts, to be honest!

What influences your creative process?
My process hasn’t changed much for years now, and now it’s a fairly mechanical procedure. Initial idea, photoshoot, digital manipulation. I try to let things happen naturally, without thinking or intellectualizing too much, because I know by experience than the results are better when I work intuitively.

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?
Creativity is a nice activity but I don’t sacralize it. I’m so used to it that it feels like a regular activity for me, as basic as eating or sleeping. I don’t think about it. I like to say that I could create on a laptop in the middle of the street if I had to. I don’t need any special conditions.

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How much planning goes into your photos beforehand? How do you choose a location for your shoots? Does each location add to the meaning of each photograph?
Contacting a model and scouting for a location, mostly (most of the time, the location is my home studio anyway). Sometimes a few notes or preliminary sketches, but I’ve learnt to not expect too much from a photoshoot. The place, the light are always different from what I imagined and I have to adapt. Most of the time the artwork ends up being very different from what I had in mind originally. The photography part of my work is mostly about collecting resources for the real creative part that happens afterwards: the digital manipulation.
Outside locations have to be quiet, empty, with a potential for good light and with an open horizon if possible, because I like vast and empty landscapes. I avoid forests and prefer lakes and shores, for example. That’s why Iceland was a perfect place for me to collect landscape resources.

What impact do your surroundings have on your art? How important is nature to you? What role does nature play in your life and in your art?
I try to put my works in an out-of-time mythological „elsewhere“, so buildings and human elements are not really welcome when I shoot outside. Living in Norway offers me some opportunities in that way. It’s easier to find empty places around here. Now some of my artworks are colder, with a Nordic atmosphere, but that’s mostly a consequence, not a conscious choice.

What are your first musical memories? What kind of music you are listening to?
As a kid I was gifted an old turntable and I took a few records from my parents. The one I remember was classical music, a selection of works by Schubert, Wagner… Nowadays, I listen to a lot of music, different styles, but always weird, dark or atmospheric. It can be ambient, electro, metal, folk… I’m open to everything as long as it’s a bit different. I guess if I had to choose a specific scene, it would be dark ambient / industrial.

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What influence does music have on your creative process? What role does music play when making art? How does music shape your artworks?
Basically no influence. I would create the same artworks whatever I’m listening to, or in silence, really. I’m mostly listening to podcasts when I work. I love music, it’s the language of the soul and my biggest frustration is to not be a musician myself. But my creativity is a mechanical process so ingrained into me and my daily life that it’s not influenced by anything.

How did you get into illustrating album artwork? What fascinates you about the relationship between music and design that drew you to it?
I don’t really remember how it happened. I think at some point, some bands asked me to use some of my existing artworks, then I naturally transitioned to accept commissions. I had to learn CD design, which was not one of my skills.
I’m always happy to collaborate with musicians and artists I like. Usually I ask them to give me a few keywords or themes and I go from there. If they ask me something specific, a formed idea, I usually fail. Not because I’m stubborn or egocentric, but because I have very limited skillset and resources and can only do so much. But it’s always interesting to try to understand the inner atmosphere of an album and to try to recreate it for an artwork.

You get to work with so many artists. Do you have a favorite exhibition that springs to mind and what set it apart from the others?
I recently gave an interview about the Naïa Museum in France, where some of my artworks are on display and I think I would choose that one. I had many great experiences when it comes to exhibitions. Exhibiting with David Lynch, Giger or Jodorowski, going to New Mexico for an exhibition, solo shows in Berlin and Dublin for example… But I like the Naïa Museum because it’s situated in an old medieval castle and it’s in Brittany, close to my birthplace, the region where I have my roots. So there’s a bit of added emotional attachment!

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Your cover art for Neraterrae („The substance of perception“) is one of your collaborations with Daria Endresen. How did the idea and concept get seeded and what was the process like to turn these thoughts into this piece of art? In what unique way do you both complement each other?
Daria is my best friend, we’ve influenced each other a lot over the years. She probably would define herself as mostly a photographer and uses digital art as a tool. And I’m the opposite, I’m a digital artist first. So our collaborations are quite natural, she takes photos, I manipulate them. But our ideas and inspirations are the same, so we work in the same direction.
The artwork was created for an album, and I don’t remember exactly what was the briefing from the musician, but it was a good experience for me, incorporating Daria’s ominous character in Icelandic landscapes that I shot especially for the project.

If you look back – how do you feel your aesthetic has changed over the last years?
A few years ago, I was trying to focus on my own specific style: a blend of studio photography with dramatic clair-obscur light, brown and yellow tones inspired by Renaissance painting and a general unsettling or even morbid ambience with religious overtones. Nowadays, I choose variety and experimentation. I don’t repudiate my style, but I’m allowing myself to try different settings, outside photography, cold colors, serene or even psychedelic artworks… I’m betting that my themes will emerge through my works, whatever the style.

What is in the pipeline for you at the moment? What do you wish for & what are you most looking forward to?
I’m working on a new artbook that will be published in 2022. I can’t tell too much about it now but it’s the project I’m mostly focusing on right now!

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