Sculpture par exemple. Conversing with Nicolas Momein


Steady Sideslipis the title of young French artist Nicolas Momein’s first Italian exhibition. Till January 16th, Rivoli2 Foundation in Milan will host the solo show focused on the eclectic thirty-five-year-old artist capable of overturning and reinterpreting the sculptural meaning of objects. Far from any restriction, Momein lets unpredictability and expressive estrangement be the keys of each one of his works, together with the experimentation of unconventional techniques and materials born from his direct contact to the world of  the “handmade”.

Steady Sideslip is a project specially conceived for the environments of the Foundation Rivoli2. How do you think the perception of the viewers might have been influenced by the site-specific nature of the exhibition?
On the occasion of my visit to the Rivoli2 Foundation, I’ve been deeply influenced by the circulation sense suggested by the architecture. This place is split into two different parts. From one side there are exhibition rooms, from the other the stairs, separated by windows and whose walls are made of red bricks. When we leave an area to get into a different one, we are forced to take the stairs that create a break in the reading of the show. I think exactly this chaotic circulation sense has inspired me: I desired to create an environment that could interact with the exhibition place and at the same time change its perception.

Your creations are on the boundary between installation, sculpture and design starting from the reinterpretation (sometimes they speak about détournement) of the common objects. Which features should they have to be selected?
As a sculptor, I give a greater attention to the materials, in particular to those which are more familiar to me and that I have in my reality. Some of these materials are motifs and obsess my artistic production. I often choose materials with a “tactile sense of the sight” like horsehair, mineral wool or spongy napkins. When I manipulate objects, I usually do a micro-déplacement that makes the shapes reveal themselves for what they really are in their uniqueness and fragility.

Aesthetic shape vs. functionality: can we say that your sculptures are an answer to the strict and sometimes standardized shapes of modern design?
Yes, I think these sculptures as part of a constantly growing set: today they are around sixty. I call them “sculpture par exemple”. They are a sample case of uncontrolled shapes, each of them is born from an easy technical gesture (card, cut, model, glue or stratify) on a particular material (synthetic mousse, papier mâché, horsehair, steel, textile…). These sculptures of modest dimensions are ambiguous: between the shape of the object and of the furniture, they follow the rules of the art craft, of the interior design and of the buildings, an intermediate shape that becomes possible even if it is unstable and grotesque.

Among the works on view “Semences aux wasabi” is one of the most full of contrasts and unusual associations: hardness and rigidity of the nails and the slippery nature of the shape; stability and precariousness, nature and culture (reference to the edible materials vs. industrial world). Can you explain its origin?
In the profession of the upholsterer, a recurring gesture is the one of putting small nails (semences de tapissier) in the mouth as a reserve. They are then fixed with a hammer. This action allows the artisan to have one hand always free to stretch cover textile before applying it on the chair. Semences aux wasabi comes from here, from a language and gesture game. I used materials that allow this gesture to show up again. I ended the sculpture with a polishing of wasabi dust: its gustative and spicy dimension is very important because it represents its concreteness and fragility.

The exhibition at Fondazione Rivoli2 has been curated by Stefano Castelli. Nicolas Momein is represented by the gallery Bernard Ceysson and the gallery White Project.


Nicolas Momein, édicules Lainés, 2013. Rendez vous 13, Institut d’art contemporain Villeurbanne, Photo Blaise Adilon


Installation view of the exhibition Steady Sideslip, 2015. Fondazione Rivoli2, Photo Federica Berra


Nicolas Momein, Sculpture par example nr.47, 2015. Fondation Rivoli 2, Photo Federica Berra


Nicolas Momein, Sculpture par exemple nr.52, 2015. Fondation Rivoli2, Photo Federica Berra


Nicolas Momein, Semences au wasabi, 2015. Courtesy Nicolas Momein

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