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Light fantastic

Light fantastic

Monday, 09 January 2012
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Christophe Roulet
Editor-in-chief, HH Journal

“The desire to learn is the key to understanding.”

“Thirty years in journalism are a powerful stimulant for curiosity”.

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4 min read

From electronic engineering via industrial design, Alainpers came to horology in a roundabout way. Philosophical considerations, sensitivity to the urban environment, and a passion for light come together in creations that illuminate time.

“Light is magic!” Time takes on a different dimension for Alainpers, far removed from the cogs, gears and pinions that have always divided our days and nights. Take for example the works he showed last November at MACparis, a contemporary arts venue in (appropriately) the City of Light. Even his most seasoned customers were disconcerted by his latest conceptual light sculptures, to the point that one promised to come back every ten minutes until he had understood the concept of such an emotional, luminous, but no less obscure manifestation of time. Unsurprisingly, Alainpers makes frequent reference to Plato’s allegory of the cave and its lesson that we rarely perceive things as they truly are at first glance.

A spiritual dimension

A cave whose play of light and shadow are the crux of Plato’s analogy. In exactly the same way, Alainpers transforms space time into a cognitive introspection, dictated by the fleeting nature of light. “Light is a means of producing works which are alive and whose spiritual dimension takes on its full significance,” he explains. “Each dot of light is a marker. Together they express a progression, the fusion of time and illumination. An inner adventure. It’s no coincidence that my first work was a clepsydra.”

When I decided to create my own objects using light as a medium, time immediately sprang to mind.

After training as an electronic engineer, Alainpers cut his teeth in the aeronautic industry. He then joined an industrial design agency before resuming his studies, this time at the School of Fine Arts in Paris. “When I decided to create my own objects using light as a medium, time immediately sprang to mind.” But that is only half the tale. Alainpers also draws inspiration from seventeenth-century pottery and from ancient works, such as those in the cabinet of curiosities belonging to Nicolas Grolier de Servières (1596-1689) and described by the humanist doctor Jacob Spon (1647-1685) as follows: “Lyons, Place Louis-le-Grand. Servières, great-nephew of Jean Grolier, the celebrated bibliophile, acquired a reputation for his talent for mechanical objects and compiled a substantial cabinet of curious machines. They numbered several surprising devices, delicate lathed objects, and some most singular machines of war; in fact almost everything of which mechanical mathematics is capable.”

Monumental works

It should therefore come as no surprise that Alainpers should embark on the creation of monumental works, for the Alcatel head office in Paris, Sodexi in Roissy, the town of Puteaux (to the west of Paris), or the Time Tower in Shanghai. “There is an aesthetic consideration to my work but also an architectural dimension that must resonate with the built environment and forge a link. Obviously the idea of a clock is part of it, but this mark of time must tend towards simplicity and purity, so much so in fact that when taken to an extreme degree, time is erased. Think about it: how many sundials were produced simply for decorative effect? Basically, I’m making my own cabinet of curiosities.”

Alainpers tracks time using electronic means, namely the oscillations of quartz which provide “an incredible reliability and the perfect counterpart for LEDs.” His work extends beyond large-format sculptures. This artist and “architect of time” as he likes to call himself imagines other objects, again based on the concept of time and light merged, which can be hung like paintings or “alternative” clocks. Alainpers has many prototypes up his sleeve, all waiting to be produced on a larger scale than as a one-off or small series. “The problem is finding a manufacturer capable of understanding my work and believing in what I do. But at the end of the day, life is about encounters!”

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