Following the presentation at this year’s Frieze New York of Carla Chan’s Space between the Light Glows (2021) – an evocation of the ravishing light of ‘golden hour’ in the Swiss Alps – luxury skincare leader and Frieze Partner La Prairie debuts a new collaboration at Frieze London.
Sense of Blue (2021) by Mathieu Le Sourd, also known as Maotik, is occasioned by the launch of Skin Caviar Nighttime Oil, a new creation in La Prairie’s collection, intended to put night at the heart of a new beauty ritual. Sense of Blue is an immersive environment where light and sound intensfies as viewers experience the evolution from dusk to deepest night, when, in the brand’s words, ‘our senses are liberated’. Featuring motion sensors, video projections and digital algorithms within an interactive screen installation, Sense of Blue aims to immerse the viewer gradually into the depths of the night’s cobalt blue. This colour has been celebrated throughout art history by artists, including Niki de Saint Phalle, whose use of it inspired the hue of the packaging for La Prairie’s iconic Skin Caviar Collection.
What were your first thoughts when La Prairie approached you about a collaborative commission?
I realized very quickly I was being given a lot of freedom creatively. And that freedom was to me very interesting. I liked the concept of nature, science and art all being combined–that my practice and La Prairie’s history were bringing together scientists, chemists, nanotechnologists, art and technology.
And how will the commission manifest at Frieze London?
The concept is to create a kind of journey, from dusk to the middle of the night to the deep light–a life cycle of sorts. Travelling not through distance but through time. I considered different AR and VR versions–but at the fair, visitors will be really struck by the light. It’s exciting to work with such a large space–and this architecture: this allows the viewer’s perspective and experience of the installation to change as they encounter it. A version of the work was shown at ArtBasel, where it took the form of a pure light installation, whereas the version at Frieze London will offer a more immersive experience.
La Prairie positions the collaboration and the exploration of the colour blue in terms of a nighttime ritual. What is your relationship to the night?
It has changed over the years. It also depends on where I am–in the countryside or the city, which is on the go 24/7, and there is always light pollution and urban noise disturbing insects, birds and other wildlife. I do love the precious silence of the night, its obscurity. Nighttime in a wood is something very different, special. It can be a very creative but also intriguing time. At different points in my life, I have decided to work through the night and wake later.
Do you have any nocturnal rituals, or other rituals that aid your creativity?
I try to be efficient, but I often find I need something spontaneous happening, some kind of disturbance going on around me, to work. Stress stimulates me and can cause me to revise all my ideas. I need a process to release what’s in my mind–it’s not as though I’m just suddenly creative. You can always feed your interests and creative thinking unconsciously by finding an inspiring moment, like walking through nature.
The relationship between science and nature is significant to La Prairie. How important is nature to your work?
Nature is so intriguing. I’m very interested in plants and the sea and the elements. I have been working on representing the ocean and the weather, trying to give it a shape, but it’s difficult to predict how nature will behave. To reflect this aspect of nature in the digital medium is very challenging: it’s both abstract and, at the same time, very technical.
What does it mean to you to show your work in an environment like Frieze London?
I am very proud to be able to show my work at art fairs like Frieze, a place renowned for the incredible artists that are represented there. Especially as a digital artist, it is great to be able to access this prestigious contemporary art world where digital art is not always accepted. To merge the white cube of contemporary art with the black box of my world is very important. And I like having the chance to take art beyond institutional settings, so people can see how we are trying to innovate and find something different.
Can you talk about the participatory aspect of the work?
I am a ‘creative coder’, so for Sense of Blue, I have been working with an algorithm that reacts to how viewers are attracted to different areas within the installation–taking up different positions will change how the system behaves. It will be like a living organism. This is sometimes difficult to anticipate–especially as a digital artist. Over the years, I have invited people to participate in my work at different stages of the process, and I’m always surprised by how people behave. Even when the work is finished, some people will be very contemplative and sit down, some will jump and dance. But I have no set expectations; I’m not wanting to guide the viewer. My objective is to create a totally unique experience.
Discover more about about the collaboration and Skin Caviar Nighttime Oil at LaPrairie.com
Maotik’s commission is on view all week in the La Prairie Lounge at Frieze London, 13-17 October at The Regent's Park
This article first appeared in Frieze Week, October 2021 under the headline 'Midnight Magic'
All images: Maotik, Sense of Blue, 2021, creative process, commissioned by La Prairie. Courtesy: the artist and La Prairie