by Fermin Soto Muños
Invigorated by the vivid colors and translucent light of Jaliscos high desert mountains, French sculptor and engraver Pascal Pigeau was bent on capturing the play of hues and shadows that are unique to this region. Thirteen years after his arrival in Mexico, he has managed to turn light and shadow into a three-dimensional art form. Recognized as one of Jaliscos most important artists in the field of glass works, Pigeau recently invited us to his studio to talk about his art and ideas.
Pigeau arrived in Mexico in 1985 already possessing a strong background in etching and engraving techniques such as mezzotint and dry point. Fascinated with contrasting tones even during his early years of study in France, he learned how to engrave copper plates used to produce lithographs. The powerful array of colors he found in Mexico induced him to experiment with brighter tones in his engravings. But Pascal wasnt satisfied. He longed to capture and manipulate the way the natural light reflected off the land. In 1996 he hit upon a way to achieve his dream.
Using a perfectly round glass sphere, a long tube, and three mirrors, Pigeau mounted the first of a series of kaleidoscopes that have developed over the past few years into unique pieces of art. The physical design of Pigeaus kaleidoscopes are long, sleek creations of polished bronze and copper. Some pieces measure over four feet in length, and all have hand-stitched leather carrying bags. The weight and feel of each piece is rich and powerful.
The internal view from these works of art is breathtaking. The image of the outside world is fractured into twisting displays of light, color and shadow distorting what is seen by the naked eye, but amplifying the hues and tones of natural light. Pigeau comments that the view through his kaleidoscopes offers a different perception of reality. One of his goals is to create a telescope-sized kaleidoscope that will actually amplify the image in the viewfinder. He is also currently working on developing a series that will have two eyepieces, similar in appearance to a pair of binoculars. Each tube will hold an individual crystal sphere, to capture and refracture outside light.
The combination of metal, glass and leather used to create these pieces are characteristic of Pigeaus passion for contrast. But light, he claims, is the most important material in the construction of his art. The tangible elements of the kaleidoscope are what give form to the piece, but the true canvas is not what can be held in the hands. Pascal notes that most people only see fifty percent of the world around them. His inspiration in creating kaleidoscopes is to help open a different vision of the world around us.
Pigeaus creations are not limited strictly to kaleidoscopes. Recently he has been working on several different three-dimensional sculptures in glass and metal, again using light and the translucent nature of the material to the fullest advantage.
"Glass is a filter for light," he explains. "It needs to interact with illumination to fulfill its innate essence." The trick is knowing exactly how much light to filter and in what manner to modify it. "Why use something transparent only to turn it opaque," asks the artist when questioned about the use of colored glass. He does use tinted glass in many of his pieces, but shies away from murky tones and colors. The manipulation of color is equally important in capturing the perfect display of light and space in each piece. Colors dissolve into plays of light and shadow, creating a new perspective in which hues and tones become a three-dimensional art form.
Pascal Pigeau is one contemporary artist to keep a watchful eye on. During the past year he has received various national awards for excellence in artistic endeavors, and is drawing attention among art circles around the country.