This month Mesplé speaks with Ela Yeliz of the Turkish publication XOXO The Mag. The interview has been printed in Turkish only, below is the original transcription in English.
EY: Mesplé, is it safe to say that your works are masculine?
Mesplé: My works are not something I tend think about in that way necessarily. There are a lot of techniques involved that seem to still carry a masculine association - engineering or computer science, welding, blacksmithing and other foundry practices. When I set out to make something I aim to create something that leaves any viewer in a state of wonder. The scale of my pieces is mostly life-size and perhaps there is something within that that lends itself to a more masculine vibe.
EY: You started blacksmithing when you were 14. When you look at how you have shaped your career, does it match with what you imagined?
Mesplé: Not at all. I had always been exposed to traditional art forms throughout my whole life. I learned a lot first hand from both my father, an artist himself, and through working in foundries at a young age. I think watching my father’s skills develop into something beyond what is perceived as an art form and closer to major problem solving, teaching and philosophy or psychology left me wanting more.
EY: Your clients range from technology firms to luxury entities like casinos. How do you approach commissioned work? How do you adapt your aesthetic to different brands like Red Bull or Google?
Mesplé: In my experience, commissioned work occurs when the client seeks you out because of a specific skill set. They see what you are capable of doing and the attitude you bring to it. There is a part of my work that can be felt in the way it was engineered or executed. It brings the same no nonsense approach as my personal work in sculpture to a whole different platform with more funding. This type of experience can be very rewarding because you get to work with new materials and various teams.
EY: With commissioned projects, do you feel like you're steering away from the artistic side of your practice?
Mesplé: Actually no, commissioned work has been a major part of my development and still is. Maintaining different practices and ways of problem solving helps me stay sharp even with my own art. I always want to engineer things to a degree that they feel totally seamless, and I do that to ensure touch points like clients or collectors have the same parallel experiences with projects I execute.
EY: Do you ever compromise from your aesthetics for these types of projects?
Mesplé: There can be a lot of give and take at times. I would say a large part of my aesthetic is industrial and I balance that with a museum quality approach. This has fit with almost all of my clients and their brands in some way so there hasn’t been a real disconnect yet.
EY: Where does your fascination with skeletons come from?
Mesplé: My whole life I have had an interest in physical anthropology. I first noticed it with prehistoric creatures like all kids have a curiosity about at some point. For me it has never dissipated. Early on in college I had declared that as my major before returning to sculpture.
EY: Natural materials are transformed into manmade objects, and you mix these with human life. There's a nice rhythm and play between manmade and organic as well as modern technology and anthropology. (comments)
Mesplé: The play between life and death is a big part of the art and the manmade materials shed light on that. I am able to manipulate forms into something that can feel frozen in time and in that sense eternal. I leave the viewer's action in control of the technology in my pieces allowing them to intersect and interact with this relationship.
EY: You make people interact with materials, allowing them to witness changes in materials that they don't often interact with. For example in 'Ferreflection Pool,' liquid moves in a way they've probably never experienced before. Is using technology to create new experiences one of your concerns?
Mesplé: I think my work comes from a very creative place where I like to combine things and introduce associations to viewers that previously didn’t exist to them before. Its unexpected and not always easy to pinpoint what is going on or how. I want to develop people’s curiosities and I think that these combinations are a compelling way to do so.
EY: Another example is 'Absolution,' this piece leaves the viewer in awe, seeing a magnetic fluid move in a way we never see is almost like watching a science fiction movie. Are you influenced by science fiction or big Hollywood action movies at all?
Mesplé: Science fiction is definitely an interest of mine because on a creative level writers think of things that have not yet been produced - and thats exactly what I like to do except I build them. Its not always so much about the movies themselves as the content that draws me in. Some of the components used in my sculptures were originally developed by independent artists, with the intent of using them strictly for artist applications rather than products. These components have since been picked up and are now sold by companies like Microsoft. Still, I and many artists use them more closely in line with their original intent. By bringing these products back into the studio there is so much more we can do with them and through the artworks I am able to share that with an audience.
EY: What do you want people to get out of your interactive works?
Mesplé: The intent of concealing some of the most complicated parts of my interactive sculptures is to make people wonder how they work. By taking away the gears or switches and other visuals that would indicate how things work, I am able to clear the air to make room for an experience that is void of certain preconceptions. A lot of what I do begins in two different places and comes together almost behind the scenes. I want viewers to experience a moment where they can’t quite figure out exactly what’s going and want to learn more. The curiosities that arrive when you get to that place are definitely something I reach for.
EY: You said, "The more I know the more I can hone it to something original and unique." What is the drive behind wanting to have your hands on every aspect of a project?
Mesplé: I believe that the better I understand what goes into each part of the final piece, the more room I have to push and explore different directions. The nature of commissioned work parallels to my personal work in the same way. When I hire anyone to work for me its important that I am able to communicate with them very specifically and that we both understand the engineering and its capabilities. It goes the other way as well, if I don't know something in a major commission that my work will need to interact with, I ask questions. Constantly learning means the skills are constantly growing and the work will always reflect that.
EY: Who constitutes your team? You must be working with professionals from different fields.
Mesplé: There are a lot of people that I have enjoyed working with on large scale projects. Many of which work in nearby studios and some I have collaborated with a few times. For example, I met Steve Lassovsky during a project with Google. We have since worked together for PetNet and are currently developing components and machines for a new theme park ride at Great America. At the same time, on my pieces I work pretty independently. Its the commissions that can require a team generally but there are still instances where I want to try something new with my work and I seek out the method from there. In the past I learned a great deal about computer programming from Ian Hattwick. Right now I am finishing a sculpture and for the first time I will use glass as a medium. Artist Adam Mostow helped me mold shapes, a little over half a meter in size, which will expose me first-hand to technical glass blowing.
EY: When you are not in the studio welding or playing with magnetic fluids, what do you do?
Mesplé: I am constantly thinking of the next project. I moved to Los Angeles a little over six years ago to be closer to clients. Along the way I have had to sacrifice a lot of time developing what you may think of as a normal lifestyle but the atmosphere of the studio and proximity to other creatives has definitely helped propel me into where I am today.
EY: How are your days shaped around your studio practice?
Mesplé: I spend quite a bit of time at my studio and am there almost every day. I share the space with two other builders and we tend to bounce ideas around. It feels like the right place to be most of the time because of how close I am to the work; it allows me to act on my ideas as soon they come to me.