When LN-CC were looking for digital artists to help realise a reality-distorting Gorpcore showcase, we came across Valentin Gillet’s truly transportive photogrammetry and 3D modelling work for Nelson Beer, before duly falling down the rabbit-hole that is his Instagram account, @3d_cowboy69. His digitally-manipulated photorealistic landscapes provide an imagination-igniting, possibility-pushing habitat for the season’s most covetable outdoorswear.
Inspired by geology, biology and computer science, the Paris-based artist’s work continually mixes an aggregate of digital representation techniques to capture and reconstruct the real world. Through this distorting mirror, he invites us to question our human values, explore our consciences, while revealing the tensions of surface and substance of the world. Against the backdrop of the climate crisis and global pandemic, we’ve increasingly looked to our garments for protection and, as many of us have reconnected with nature, we’ve rediscovered the transformative power that green spaces hold. Now, more than ever, we expect garments to have a purpose and ask more of them. With the world in crisis, this is the time of performance activewear designed with purposeful beauty because ultimately, the gorp-geist encapsulates an aspirational outdoorsiness in the age of socio-political and ecological decline.
As his Fractal Gorpcore visuals are soundtracked by frequent collaborator Kamal El Aoufi, Valentin talks us through his approach, takes us on a tour of his photorealist world, and shares his excitement for the future of computer science.
Firstly, how do you like to be introduced? There are too many cringe-inducing intros out there, would you be able to introduce yourself, what you do and why you do it?
Sure, so I would introduce myself as an artist, basically I work almost exclusively with the computer and all the tools it has to offer. What captivates me about computer science is that it is the tool that emulates the human mind itself, created by the human mind, to extend the human mind. So I guess I'm using computers to extend my understanding of the world through my work.
Are we right in saying that you’re self-taught?
For the 3D part I am indeed self-taught like a lot of artists out there. A lifelong inspiration for what I do has been the scientific research world in general, I secretly wish I had been blessed with higher cognitive abilities to pursue a career in research, either in computer science or some branch of astronomy.
What has influenced you most?
I have always looked up to those who experience the world with a daunting proximity to 'reality'.
Have you ever experienced a creative epiphany?
I did have a recent creative epiphany. It occurred last summer while reading Informatique Céleste (roughly translates to "celestial computing") by Mark Alizart. This book from 2017 tries to initiate a "digital ontology" and covers the topics of computation and philosophy from a contemporary perspective. It changed my understanding of what computers are, and why I have been drawn to them, my work has not been the same since.
Beyond getting paid, what encourages you to take on a project? What did you think when our art director Lou messaged you? What was it about that brief that interested you?
I really enjoy taking on commercial projects that revolve around nature. When Lou contacted me, I sensed that this wasn't going to be a project exclusively around brands but that there would be space for exploring ideas around landscapes that I had in the back of my mind. I have previously worked for outdoor brands but couldn't always go to the full extent of my vision, which wasn't the case here.
Could you talk us through the why, what and how of this project?
So to walk you through the process, I first looked for a concept that would tie the series together visually. The idea I had was to create these somewhat photorealistic landscapes that would match the colour tones of the products, as if to unravel why these products looked the way they did, showing the original material in the background. I then modelled the products using an infrared 3D scanner that generated a 3D object from the physical models that could be used in a 3D scene. I also modelled the landscapes with another software, assembled all the parts, put some light and voilà.
Your work continually captures and reconstructs the real world through a distorting mirror that questions perceptions. Beyond product, what do you hope people take away from the project?
I believe all I'm trying to do with my work is offset people's view about the way they look at the world, ever so slightly. Photorealistic computer generated images have this permanent weirdness to them that captivate people. The thing is that the real world is even weirder once we look at it closer. Closer as in deeper, with a conscious effort to set aside all preconceived ideas one may have. B.Mandelbrot discovered (and coined the term) 'fractals' in the 70s, by doing exactly that, that and also the fact that computers were around.
Finally, what excites you most about tomorrow?
I am excited for the future of computer science, by how much ground has already been covered and what can still be accomplished with the possible rise of quantum computing. Computers are neutral, and good humans can make good use of them.