London Design Week event - From Concept to Completion: Creating a Narrative through Interior Design
26th September 2019 | Behind the scenes
Petroc Sesti is an artist who blurs boundaries – his work handles huge and complex subjects through deceptively simple and elegant execution.
From large spherical globes containing a spinning vortex of optic fluid, to intricate laser cut constellations. His work is based firmly in the world of science, from notions of space, energy and time to the process in which black-holes swallow light and force the stars to revolve around them. Sesti’s work makes science and art collide and the result is hypnotic.
Petroc Sesti has had a prolific exhibition history; past exhibitions include FRIEZE Art Fair, the Louis Vuitton Foundation and the Aeroplastics Gallery, Brussels. Recently a Vortex piece by Sesti has been featured in one of the G.A London team’s private residential projects. After a visit to his fantastic Shoreditch studio Petroc answered some of our questions.
Has your work always been rooted in scientific enquiry?
Artists and scientists have always embraced technological innovations of their time, this was as true during the Renaissance as it is today. If you give an artist a microscope, telescope or indeed a photographic camera, they will use it to further develop their ideas.
“The greatest scientists are artists as well,” noted Albert Einstein.
What links the arts and science is a shared interest in the natural world, what sets artists and scientists apart is what we do with it, what we have to show for our endless hours of study and contemplation. Art has always used technology of its time to convey notions of spirituality, philosophy of form – or Chi/Qi as it is understood in the East. Increasingly I believe we are entering into a new golden age where art and science both serve to enrich culture and society.
There is no Culture without Art.
What is the most challenging aspect of creating or installing your work?
The need to take risks at the outset of an idea and making sure the emergent new form or technique can stand the test of time.
Sustainability and conservation are particularly important subjects to you. How does that reflect in your work?
I have always been drawn to wildlife and to the plight of the rainforest. I have long been an ambassador for the Asian Elephant charity Elephant-Family which brought me into contact with like-minded conservationists and biologists and the data used for modelling climate and biodiversity.
Both arts and sciences agree on the fact that never before in our history has there been a moment where the environment has mattered so much. I believe artists have a unique ability to communicate this to the public and tell a story of how Climate Change is affecting the planet by producing often awe-inspiring, visceral and immersive artworks.
I have co-founded a cultural program called Platform Earth that unites artists and scientists to address issues related to Climate Change. Our goal is to commission artworks born of out of collaboration between artists and scientists which aim to highlight issues related to Global Warming. Thus raising public awareness and linking the cultural narrative in the heart of our cities to the study of wonders and often inaccessible parts of the planet. It’s an exciting time as we are launching next year.
Regarding your spinning Vortex works, there seems to be a crucial interplay between the work activating the space and the space activating the work, how important to you is the placement of your pieces?
The more interactive the artwork, the more alive it really is. Through optics and the display of moving water I hope to address the static nature of architecture enhancing a building’s human experience. Choosing to use Solar Power to activate the sculptures’ movement makes the works directly responsive to their environment. The artwork plays with the linear architecture of the building like an optical camouflage which reconfigures it in a display of magnified curvature.
Understanding the context and thought process behind your work is fascinating, but for an outsider with little scientific knowledge there is instead a sense of magic and mystery, as if your work tries to make sense of the unknown. How do you respond to people’s less scientific and more visceral responses to your work?
That’s kind. An artwork can’t be all about the wow factor that greets the unsuspecting viewer – maintaining a level of intrigue is necessary. You don’t need to be scientifically read to appreciate the magic of the Milky Way or witness an eclipse. The hard work is creating a humble yet convincing artwork that plays with the feelings associated with such magical events, in art this is associated with concept of phenomenology.
Your spherical liquid Vortex pieces depend on a science and a great deal of engineering, however there is also a lot of symbolism at play. Could you expand on this?
Beyond how life-like the moving folds of fluid seem and how they play on the senses both visually and psychologically, I hope the viewer appreciates the states of chaos and order presented to them, the micro and the macro forms and the concept of energy that drives them. There is a global wealth of symbolism associated with moving water, clouds and the environment; in particular in Asian culture where these notions have formed Classical Chinese philosophy, described as the Qi, the force that makes up and binds together all things in the universe. Where it is paradoxically, both everything and nothing, best symbolised by my ongoing study and fascination with the ‘Void’ throughout my work.
Putting time aside for your own research and to gather inspiration can be difficult, what do you do to get your creative juices flowing?
There is nothing more inspiring than completing a large site-specific artwork. This gives you a clean-slate and time on your hands to conceive of new artworks. In moments like these I urge artists and indeed everyone to travel and find what fascinates them. This has taken me face to face with rainforest biodiversity and brought the stars of the Milky Way seemingly within an arm’s reach in the Atacama Desert. Chances are you probably bump into a scientist in remote places like these.
If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
A surgeon, probably. I just hope for Albert Einstein and the patients’ sake that artists can also make good scientists.