Nelson Pernisco


“I consider myself making art to take an appointment. It’s my way to connect with others”

AT: Where are you from and how/why did you start engaging with art?

NP: I was born in Paris and I still live and work there. I started engaging with art at a very young age: my first approach was with drawing and painting. Later on, when I begun getting involved with squats, I discovered industrial machineries and working tools and I started using them in my practice, mainly sculpting.


AT: When did it become serious?

NP: It’s really hard to say: I feel it always had a very important place in my life. I could say it began to feel more solid five or six years ago when I started being invited for several exhibitions.


AT: Are there any person who has been significant in your breakthrough as an artist?

NP: Eight years ago I created a collective with a group of artist friends named “Le Wonder”. Since then, we started occupying dismissed industrial buildings and converting them into shared studios equipped with hardware and machineries. It is a space of research and production for sculpture, painting, sewing, screen printing, broadcasting, cinema, food and music. More recently, I got into the White Noise Gallery in Rome. Our collaboration is building itself on a strong teamwork and delights me.


AT: What is your first approach to the work? How would you describe your practice?

NP: I consider myself making art to take an appointment. It’s my way to connect with others. I feel like I’m engaging in my work not only to achieve a material outcome, but mostly as a way to meet people and create contents open up for further discussion. I’m developing more and more the need to think about sculpture in terms of time and not space. I’m trying to create installations that are able to use the exhibition period to interact with natural influences and transform themselves. By allowing the sculptures to grow or having them going through entropic processes, I try to exhibit forms that exist in different time frames, beyond the present moment of the show.

LE COMMENCEMENT ET LA FIN, 2014, Cement, sand, gravel, rebars 120x120x120 cm | Exibithion view of ARTAGON II at Passage de Retz, Paris, 2016.

AT: What do you aim to reach with your work?

NP: I’ve been opening my work to the transformation of materials, to the experience of space and human body; I’ve been exploring the process of degradation of my artworks. Through all these factors I try to reach my final aim: to reveal the instant. I do my best to create the experience of the passage of time. I’m trying to develop a deep awareness towards it in order to make the people seek for the profoundness of the moment.


AT: What are your favourite tools and materials for working?

NP: At the moment I’ve been developing a strong fascination for aluminium: I melt it, cast it and weld it on pipes that I cut and bend.


AT: What do you feel while you work? Do you usually think about the final outcome beforehand?

NP: The whole process is always triggered by the urge of creating a form. Most of the time I begin to shape it with preliminary sketches that are then transformed into sculptures. During its production the project usually gets far away from its beginning. I always try to gain independence from the initial idea and I use the time in the studio in order to achieve it.

À LA VITESSE DU DÉSIR, 2016, Car, concrete, plante, 300x250x160 cm | Exibithion view of GENIUS LOCI at Wonder/Liebert, Bagnolet, 2017.

AT: How do you understand that a work is finished?

NP: Once a good friend told me: “I consider a work to be done when I can reflect myself into it”. An artwork should become a mirror, not one where you would look at yourself but where you would draw your reflection. I like this definition.


AT: Where does the inspiration for the work come from?

NP: For me it comes from curiosity, travelling and strong experiences; this first stage is normally followed by a research period but very often it is when I stop and start looking somewhere else that an idea comes up. It always happens when you’re not expecting it. It’s a strange game.


AT: Are there any artists who influenced your works? Why?

NP: I’m still profoundly influenced by the artists from the 70’s, especially by the Earthworks movement. I also feel drawn to the visual expression of truly contemporary artists such as Jon Rafman, Korakrit Arunanondchai or Anna Uddenberg.


AT: How important is the role of social media for you?

NP: Social media are just an easy way to show your work out of your country. I always prefer the experience of a real exhibition though. Instagram put me in touch with different communities, especially when travelling abroad: I got in contact with local artists and had the possibility to visit their studios, discover their surroundings and start new friendships. I would say it can be a really good tool.

ESPERANDO (series), 2016, Molotov cocktails on demonstration posters, pasted on wood, 150×90 each.

AT: As an artist, what is your point of view about the contemporary art system?

NP: I think it is important to stay focused on what you really want to say and to create. The rest will follow; there is no need to run after things. I keep thinking that good things come to good people.


AT: What do you find to be the most challenging or daunting thing about pursuing art? What is the most rewarding part of working as an artist?

NP: Speaking as a young artist, I would say that the hardest thing to do is try not to burn yourself during the first years. As soon as you get more recognition people start to reach out; they want you to be everywhere at the same time. I had to learn fast to refuse some projects in order to protect myself.


AT: What do you do besides art?

NP: I’m strongly committed to “Le Wonder” collective. It gave me a place to stay and to work and especially a community to grow with. It is also an economic model that allows me not to be completely dependent on the sales and the art market.


AT: What are your goals and expectations for the future?

NP: I hope I will be able to continue to make a living out of my work. It gives me the possibility to stay focused on it. I hope we will find a permanent venue for the collective. At the moment we have to move every two years. We’re 65 artists occupying from 3000 m2 to 8000 m2; to move constantly together with all our artworks and equipment it’s quite a big deal!

Oui la nuit rêve dans le minéral (part 1), 2020, Polyuréthane foam, 500×300 cm | Photo credit Christophe Levet.
Nelson Pernisco (b. 1993) is a French sculptor currently living and working in Paris, France.

His work has to be explored the way we would approach the third-places he makes his own; seen as a space of free indiscipline where critical thinking breads new utopias. From urban squats to industrial wastelands, the visual artist took it upon itself to discover the various means of occupying territories, of constructing housings and the way they act as a catalyst for political orders.His aesthetic is dry and in some way, brutalist. He relies on recycling poor and recovered materials, presented as touchstones of a world that may already be in ruins, and is at best under never-ending construction.Borrowed from the urban environment, from industrial properties or from the realm of technology,
these figments are used in his work to reflect the precariousness of time and the urgency of rethinking forms.