Christobal de Oliveira did not set himself an easy task when he decided to present a “polymorphous universe at the crossroads of digital and more traditional techniques.” Instead of taking on the whole of Creation one technique at a time, in his debut exhibition @ Le Cube, the artist uses a range of media to expose his concept under different conditions.
Exhibition space Le Cube, built just outside Paris’ city centre, was a risky venture eleven years ago. But now, this centre has made its mark as the first entirely digital arts and creativity centre in France… perfect for a multi-disciplinary artist like de Oliveira.
Described as an immersion into a “landscape of the mind” the exhibition centres on the short film “Aalternate”. Small but mighty, it has already been selected by 19 festivals, winning 6 awards as well as the Beaumarchais-SACD Award and its feature-length film writing grant. The film follows the subconscious of a woman in a state of reverie or coma as pieces of her memory collide with her psyche. Twisted shapes creep from her body creating organic shoots that in turn produce their own elements, spreading in all directions like spores. A car plunges into deep water, and is set upon by the mysterious and threatening forms that exist at the bottom of the ocean, slowly being crushed by glowing eels and finger-like tentacles. Meanwhile the motif – a contour that is picked up everywhere – is that of the woman’s body falling in a fetal position.
Combined with a soundtrack that can only be described as somewhere between the noise of an egg hatching in slow-motion and a snake gliding over leaves, de Oliveira’s work is mesmerizing, uncomfortable, threatening and oddly familiar. He manages to envisage and capture the abstract, and intangible like a clairvoyant. The film itself is hidden in a human-sized box in the middle of the exhibition space, completely draped in black except for a brilliant-white shell-shaped cleft yawning out from one corner. There doesn’t seem to be anything he hasn’t touched.
Whilst the film can arguably be called the centre point of the exhibition, the other pieces are still unmissable. Seven “vivariums” feature similar shapes as those from the film, spreading in all directions across the 3D canvas like a virus. Each has its own texture matched to a soundtrack, from arachnid spikes to fungal explosions and muscular tissue. They are both completely hypnotic and utterly disturbing.
De Oliveira also offers us a collection of oil paintings, using the motif of the car’s engine and turning it into a mushy organ with an almost Venetian palette. His attention to detail can be seen in his miniature postcard-sized paintings of the car falling into the black abyss, headlights glaring in a graphic cartoon style. Remy Hoche, Communications Manager @ Le Cube, spoke about the artist’s meticulous nature. “Il est méticuleux” (he’s meticulous) he told me, explaining how even on the day of the opening, de Oliveira was still adding final touches. Looking closer, I see what Rémy means. There are minuscule last-minute strokes on a few of the pieces. I imagine that when the first few visitors arrived, they must have been pleasantly surprised to see the artist himself, brush in hand, perfecting his work.
It might not be in the centre of Paris, but Le Cube is less than 15 minutes from Saint Michel on the RER (get off at Issy) and de Oliveira’s debut exhibition is a clear vision combined with an exceptional artist, equally skilled in both visual and digital arts, and with the ability to unite the two. A must-see.