Julien Pacaud: the artist behind Season 2018

30 Nov 2017

Julien Pacaud is the digital collage artist who created the enigmatic images which bring to life Victorian Opera’s Season 2018. Discover more about his work, artistic processes and inspiration.

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Artwork by Julien Pacaud for Victorian Opera's Season 2018

Since 2013 Victorian Opera has used a graphical approach for our season artwork to evoke the dreams and themes of opera in a playful way. For 2018, a season where desire and destiny collide, we decided to commission a digital collage artist to represent the fantastical, and often surreal, world of opera. Our research took us across the seas to the 11th arrondissement of  Paris, where we discovered Julien Pacaud whose imaginative style and fusion of new and old matched Victorian Opera’s adventurous personality and the Season 2018 theme – encounters.

Pacaud is a pioneer of the digital collage style. He was one of the first to use a computer instead of scissors to create montages of images. He came to this style quite by accident. While studying cinematography in the early nineties Pacaud randomly discovered Photoshop and all the possibilities that it opened up for image manipulation. ‘I felt I needed to express myself in a more personal way using a more individualistic way of expression,’ he says on ditching his career in cinema.

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Image from Le Monde by Julien Pacaud

Over the years Pacaud has created commissions for publications across the world including New York Magazine, The New Yorker and French newspaper Le Monde. With a fascination for time travel and science fiction he eloquently blends different time periods, landscapes and geometric shapes. Pacaud’s work is enigmatic, surrealist, whimsical, and defies the laws of gravity.

Not surprisingly René Magritte is one of his favourite painters, while the films of David Lynch helped him discover new artistic possibilities. In terms of music he says, ‘I listened to a lot of independent rock groups from the late 1990s like Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine. I still listen a lot to this kind of music as well as ambient and more experimental stuff. This year, my big discovery is the Af Ursin project for the Belgian musician Timo Van Luijk.’

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Artwork by Julien Pacaud (L) New York Magazine (R) The New Yorker

Pacaud finds it difficult to explain where he gets his inspiration from. ‘I would say that I work instinctively. I do not think for hours before proceeding. I immediately take the plunge into the picture creation trying to follow the feeling that is inspired by the subject I am working on. It is pretty vague at the beginning but I proceed with experimentation until I reach a more precise idea from where I catch a glimpse of the final result.’

He works with a bank of digitised images which he has collected over the years scanning vintage pictures from books and magazines with a particularly fondness for the 1920-70s period. For the Victorian Opera images he was briefed on each production, in particular key symbols and moods. Then came the process of trawling through his image bank and waiting for moments of inspiration, followed by revisions and adjustments according to feedback from the company.

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The Ritual (2014) by Julien Pacaud

But what does Pacaud think about opera? ‘I admit it, I have never been to the opera! It sounds like a pretty “faraway” world from mine and I do not know many things about opera. As a matter of fact, I found it an advantage to approach it from a distance and to bring my very personal vision to it, perhaps avoiding pre-conceived ideas with an “out of the box” approach.’

And what are his thoughts on Australia? ‘The other side of Planet Earth, ultimate remoteness, sun, kangaroos, immense inhabited spaces, a total exoticism mixed with a way of life pretty close to mine as a European.’

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Future Islands (2010) by Julien Pacaud
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Tutorials (2011) by Julien Pacaud
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Mace (2009) by Julien Pacaud
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The Governor and her Solitude Ambassadors (2014) by Julien Pacaud
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The Vapor Organist (2017) by Julien Pacaud
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Stranded at Midterm (2017) by Julien Pacaud

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