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Harmonizing Horizons: Nicolas Garner's Journey Through Design, Art and Creativity
NCO 076

D: Hello, Nicolas! It's a pleasure to have you. Could you share a little about your background and creative journey so far and what projects you are working on currently?

N: I am a French creative and image-maker currently living and working in Paris. About my background, I spent 7 years in art schools between Paris and Switzerland. Back there, I studied graphic design, type design, photography, and art direction. I graduated with 2 master's degrees.

It has been a valuable process for me, not only to learn or accumulate skills but, more importantly, to sharpen my sense of aesthetics and benefit from a structure that offered me a space and means to thrive in the development of my own artistic identity and visual universe. Especially in the last part of my studies at ECAL/University of Art and Design (Lausanne).

After that, I worked as an independent and for a few years within some design studios in Paris and New York. I kept developing my own craft at the same time through a few exhibitions, publications, and commissions.

Currently, I am researching different concepts such as the uncanny valley, and I am in the process of producing a new series of hybrid artworks.

D: Recently you worked on the colorways of Balenciaga's new line of sneakers. Can you walk us through your process for color design?

N: Yes, I have done this from 2020 to 2022 and worked on 4 collections, among other things. I was basically designing new colorways for the upcoming shoe models and for all the iconic sneakers of the house. My process has not been that different from any other creative mission. For this one, some inputs or inspirations were sometimes provided upstream, and from there, I used 3D software for coloring the shoes' 3D models by following my interpretation and creative mood. I have always been very sensitive to colors, which is quite obvious when you see my visual projects. I think that having a taste for the '90s also helped in terms of style references. But at the end of the day, this is all about composition and a sense of balance.

D: In your work, we often see a mix of different media. Could you describe your process for blending different mediums and your relationship with gaming?

N: I love gaming; I have played a lot in my younger years. I had all the Nintendo consoles (laughs). Seriously, gaming is a great source of inspiration and probably introduced me to CGI and, by extension, digital art. From an artistic standpoint, I find the gaming imagery, especially from the late '90s and '00s with all its defects, very typical and intriguing. I have worked extensively on the idea of digital error and the intersection of virtual and organic materialities.

This incorrect translation of the physical world truly inspires me.

I guess artificiality, in general, is a topic of interest in my visual exploration.

D: Your individual artistic practice has gained recognition through exhibitions and features in publications such as "It's Nice That." Can you discuss how your career as an artist intersects with your work as a graphic designer?

N: I do not see a frontier between both practices but rather a continuum. If I had to define what I do, I would say that I am an aesthete. I often say that my job is just about having taste and a sharp eye. Whether it be selecting, composing, and combining images from a photographer you collaborate with or actually creating these images yourself, to me, the core of everything is the creative direction. And in both cases, you create a new visual output anyway.

What I find interesting is what you actually do and tell with these images, the relationship you create between them, the visual tension. This is a very sensitive job, and that is what is enjoyable about it. And I also believe that transversality is a major aspect of how I envision creativity in general. At a certain point, the expertise you gain in one of the creative fields can be applied to other fields.

On the work approach level, wearing several hats can also impact your way of thinking and working in both areas. For instance, most of the time, artists have their own single style, and they repeat it endlessly.

We often hear that great film directors basically always make the same movie, with variations. And that is part of their genius; it is like an obsession they have.

I admire that a lot. But as a visual artist, I think I could not satisfy myself with only one topic, one style, or one aesthetic for 10 years or even my whole life. I like and use several visual languages. That is maybe where the designer's perspective extends or diversifies the artist's vision. For sure, there are probably certain aspects that are common in all my productions.

I always need to feed my practice with research and new visual excitement. And on the other hand, as a designer, I could not work with a creative direction, a graphic style, or images that I do not like just for the sake of communication. I would not be interested. And that is maybe where the artistic identity influences the designer's work. I don't know if this is good or bad, but this is just how I function. Both sides affect each other.

D: Finally, what are your current areas of focus and what can we expect from you in the near future?

N: My main focus at the moment is my current position in the fashion industry. Still working for the same brand, I am now a part of the graphic department, the team in charge of visual communication. My scope of missions can range from the concept and design of show invitations to the layout of image campaigns on all media worldwide. This is a lot of work but it's pretty exciting.

To be honest, I was never really interested in fashion, except for underground or emerging designers, mostly in menswear. At least, I used to find the style of the big houses too bland, bourgeois, and boring. But what is being done at Balenciaga now is the opposite of that. There is something about it that falls under the contemporary gesture. I see it more as a global art project, generating a strong visual universe that is really inspiring to explore and contribute to. It really matches my interests and creative identity. Other than that, I am also preparing a new art project as mentioned earlier, and it should come out later this year!

All images courtesy of Nicolas Garner

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