Shift Japan, 08-2006
In 2004, while I was preparing my dissertation on digital art, I came across Nicolas Clauss' website. I immediately fell in love with his work so I dared to contact him to tell him. I guess it was a bit crazy but this is how our friendship began.
Since then, we've been in touch now and then and now I feel the need to share his work. I interviewed him for the pleasure of Shift's readers.
The work "De l'Art si je veux" (Art if I want) is the first project I discovered from Nicolas Clauss. However, this thirty-something has actually been painting since he was fifteen. Not very well orientated in his studies, he started a degree in sociology which he admitted has given him a wider sense of connecting with people and a better way to be curious about his contemporaries. His degree complete, he then went travelling for a few years to Australia, India, and Korea. While he was away, he drew a lot. "I wanted to make a living out of my art and was encouraged by the possibilities offered by the Internet. I recalled using the very first computer, the MO5, in the eighties. The memory of this pushed me to bind with computers and use them for my creativity."
After a few years' of hard work and training on computer art, he met Jean-Jacques Birge for the project "Le Ciel est Bleu" (The Sky is Blue) in 2000 at the Forum des Images.
"After this exhibition we worked together on a few projects, especially on "De l'Art si je Veux" (Art if I want). The, "De l'Art si je veux" is the work which touches me the most. "I've been contacted by the city of Le Mans (1 hour south of Paris) to work with five kids, aged 10-15, to create a digital series of paintings in which they would show their interpretation of modern and contemporary artists such as Arman, Francis Bacon, Ben, Christian Boltanski, Maurizio Cattelan, Jake et Dinos Chapman, Marcel Duchamp, Edvard Munch et Daniel Spoerri". And this is exactly what Nicolas Clauss is sharing with his art; this mix of social and art, the generosity and patience to give people access to art who would usually find it inaccessible. All this is achieved using the Web as his main tool.
Clauss continues, "My latest exhibition was held at the Espace Paul Ricard in Paris where I was presenting "Les Portes" (The Doors) during the Festival Nemo. It was a great experience but I admit that working with kids and people and developing more a social project is definitely the way I will direct my future art-work".
Most of Nicolas Clauss' projects are online. He conceived them keeping in mind they will first appear on the Net. If some of them are subsequently projected in an installation it's because most of the time the curator sees his work on the Internet and wishes to exhibit it.
Nicolas tells me with animation and a sparkle in his eye about his last project: "It's call "L'Ardoise" (Slate) - it's about interactivity in a random way". Following an artist resident in the south of France, he worked there with three-hundred kids, aged 11-15. They created about 200 drawings "that I used in the online project" explains Nicolas. These drawings are made only with china ink using only one or two colours. "I wanted a sentence to capture the essence of the whole art project and I wanted to accentuate the kids responses: "Ici et maintenant, enfer ou paradis" (here and now, Heaven or Hell). 'Slate' in French can also mean the 'debts' that we leave to our children.
The final exhibition was held in Beziers in April 2006 and in the installation the visitors could here the sayings of the kids on our world, their world.
Finally, I asked Nicolas Clauss what are his influences. Obviously, as he's far from being a typical artist, he explained that music mostly is a great source of inspiration. Very contemporary musicians such as Michel Portal, Yves Robert, Steve Reich as well as traditional music from Korea and Japan, he experienced on his travels.
He refreshes his eyes regularly, with painters and artists like Tapies, Rauschenberg, Boltanski, Dubuffet. Digital artists such as Du Zhenju, Oculart.com and HoogerBrugge also have his full attention and respect.
I spent more than two hours with Nicolas Clauss, in his lovely house in the countryside less than an hour from Paris. It was great to get to know him better in his home town and the environment where he belongs. He is definitely an artist to keep a digital eye on!