Interview by Loukia Richards

"Goutte de ciel" - necklace (detail).  Photo: Courtesy of Boucheron.

LR: Pythagoras called the universe "cosmos," which means jewel in Greek. As an artist working with both cosmos and jewelry, how do you experience and express this connection in your recent work for Maison Boucheron?

IM: So topical your question! These days I completed an edited book we are preparing with a colleague in Japan under the title (C)osmosisart: in_between_art_science &technology.
We show that there are no disciplines where you create beauty. Visual arts or jewelry or even gardening are parts of the same cosmos. Nevertheless, these are only parts, not the sum. And as parts, they have subtle relations between them; we can say there is osmosis occurring between all these parts of the beautiful cosmos. Regarding my own artwork, I had the chance to bring a space technology nanomaterial into haute jewelry. In my opinion this is a priceless gift I got from Boucheron and their creative director Claire Choisne: to collaborate with them with astonishing outcomes!

""(C)osmosis" - Sculpture. Hainan, China 2021.  Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Ioannis Michaloudis.
LR: You are a sculptor and inventor. You work with innovative material used in science. Many people think science and art are not compatible. Do you think this is wrong?

IM: What is wrong is that we divide the world into disciplines. This distinction is 'old fashioned', it comes from the industrial era where we needed specialized people. In our day we do not need specializations any more; we need the spirit of Leonardo da Vinci, I think. People consider science to be methodological and art to be mythological. But NASA, where I got this nanomaterial, uses it to catch stardust! Is this methodology, mythology, or a blend between them?
This amalgam of mytho-methodology is what I'm looking for through my work. If science is observing for truth and art is gazing for beauty, then I am contemplating beauty through the lens of science, of nanoscience to be precise. And you know, most probably Beauty and Truth are one and the same.

LR: What creative possibilities does the jewelry as a medium offer a visual artist? What are the compositional or creative or production rules that an artist working with jewelry should not ignore?

IM: Jewelry has all the principles of Design we learned after Bauhaus. Nevertheless, a visual artist who is interested in scales (nano, micro, giga) will find a lot of importance in jewelry because in it you can find all those "scale cosmoses". Observing and working on nanoscale is comparable to hovering in the gigantic outer space. Creating in a very small space changes your perception, your own scale, your size even: you feel like a giga-observer over a piece of jewelry made of a piece of sky!
Likewise, when you are staring at the stars you feel so small…On the other hand, in jewelry you are not working alone, you are part of a larger team, so you need to communicate your ideas in a space of dialogue. And where there is dialogue there are many parameters you need to obey too!

Model wearing "Goutte de ciel" necklace. Photo: Courtesy of Boucheron.
LR: LR: What is the concept behind your recent jewelry work for Boucheron? What difficulties - if any - did you encounter to materialize it? What kind of feedback did the jewelry series receive from the connaisseurs and the market?

IM: I am very glad Boucheron used the concept of my sky-sculptures, and that together we made sky jewelry to wear. The most difficult part of this project was that everything was unknown; it was original and unique so we had to try and test various solutions of how to fabricate a wearable 99 per cent nothing. Silica aerogel is made of a solid nanofoam of glass, so it is as fragile as glass and as delicate as air because 99 per cent of it is just thin air. Nevertheless, it is a very robust material - and here is the paradox: how you catch stardust with pure nothing!

How you can have on your body a piece of sky without damaging this heaven? Those questions needed 18 months to be answered successfully. Additionally, and because of the pandemic, we had to wait three more months for the package containing the "Goutte de Ciel" to be shipped to Boucheron - my mistake, as I used regular postal services. Regarding feedback I only know that the press reaction was extraordinary. Usually, Boucheron receives amazing media coverage because of its innovation but also classicism. But this time the articles were triumphal on this Science in Art collaboration.

Beauty and truth are one and the same

LR: How did your collaboration with Boucheron come about?

"Goutte de ciel" - necklace. Photo: Courtesy of Boucheron.
IM: In 2008 I had created some Bottled Skies with embedded clouds that are on sale as a gift on the internet by an American company specializing in aerogels. Two years ago, I received an online order for a "large embedded cloud of Bottled Sky" to be shipped to "Claire Choisne, Boucheron, 20 rue de la Paix, 75001 Paris." I was thrilled to read this brand name because I had known Maison Boucheron since I living in Paris as a doctoral researcher at Sorbonne University while teaching fashion design at the Arts Décos school.

Maison Boucheron is for me a synonym of innovation and originality in jewelry: contemporary materials and techniques merged to classic forms and design. Associating futuristic materials to archetypal forms is also my own research methodology for innovation into science and art.

LR: Is there any difference between contemporary design and art, and what are the trends in both sectors?

IM: There are differences if you wish to see differences. As for myself I wish to see art and design in a simple and humble way. Design and art are part of ourselves. We are the ones who create the trends and, for the moment, I believe the innovation trend based on the originality of art is present everywhere. Thanks to the pandemic we have much more free time so I can see many artists/designers emerging.

LR: What advice would you give a young artist seeking inspiration, exposure, recognition?

Ioannis Michaloudis’ workshop. Photo: Massimo Pizzocaro.
IM: "Frozen smoke" is the nickname NASA gave to silica aerogel because of its color and its 'immaterial' appearance. This material does not belong to Euclidean geometry. When you look at it, you cannot believe that you are seeing something tangible and real so you ‘extend’ your eyes to your fingertips: you try to touch it to believe this beautiful phantom substance is really there. I saw silica aerogel for the first time at MIT, I have since had the privilege of focusing my observations and experiments on its beauty, not on its scientific truth.

All my research with silica aerogel aims to reveal this ethereal beauty, an aerogelic beauty. Claire Choisne introduced my mythological silica aerogel into haute jewelry. Since that day, Boucheron rocketed to the spaces in-between dimension, like silica aerogel itself. Into these spaces in-between – as the mathematician Henri Poincaré described – you cannot measure anymore: you can only feel!

This is my advice to all students of art and young artists: to feel!

Dr. Ioannis Michalou(di)S is a visual artist, researcher, and academic, internationally reknown as a leading researcher in Art &Science, and the first to research the application of a space technology nanomaterial in the visual arts and design. The blending of art and science is the epicenter of all his artworks, research, and collaborations. His aer( )sculptures are made of silica aerogel, a material which has 99 per cent air content and looks like frozen smoke. It is used by NASA as an insulating material in spacecraft and for capturing stardust.
For Michalou(di)S this ethereal material is the personification of our blue and orange sky: very delicate but also strong enough to protect our planet. Since 2001 Aer( )sculptures and Skysculptures are his ongoing research projects in the visual arts to create ethereal sculptures from the lightest solid material on earth.

Homepage:  |   Instagram: @michaloudis.ioannis

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