Cyril de Commarque: Artificialis

The Saatchi Gallery invited two artists in residence Cyril de Commarque and Kate Daudy, to prepare art installations in response to the new exhibition Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh (running from 2 November 2019 until 3 May 2020).

Artificialis is the multimedia art installation created by Cyril de Commarque (b.1970), acclaimed French artist, who lives and works in London. In his installation at the Saatchi he examines issues troubling contemporary society, such as the climate change or pollution. Displayed next door to the main installation is his series of wooden sculptures titled Primitive. The sculptures depict miniature rainforests, as seen on satellite images, being destroyed by human impact. Beginning with the Anthropocene, the current human-influenced geological epoch, the artist ponders what lies ahead of us, imagining what might happen to our planet in the not so distant future.

Primitive, 2019, wood. Courtesy the artist..
Cyril de Commarque – Primitive (2019)

The title of the installation Artificialis is also closely related to another issue, the impact on the AI or Artificial Intelligence on humans. The artist is interested in universal themes, including our origins, mortality and the afterlife. Combining philosophy, myths and legends, de Commarque provides his thoughts on important existential questions. Despite complex symbolism behind some of his works the message is clear even to an unprepared visitor. The artist does not expect the viewers to be familiar with philosophy, but is confident that the artworks speak for themselves. Just like the Golden Pharaoh, those before him and after him, humans are on a quest for immortality. With the advancement of technology and AI will we continue to exist as Homo Sapiens, or are we going to end up as Homo Artificialis?

Artificialis, installation view, 2019, Saatchi Gallery. Courtesy the artist
Cyril de Commarque – Artificialis, installation view

In the centre of the main installation room is the primordial Earth Goddess emerging from broken Earth crust. Mother Earth has featured in different mythologies under different names, across the time and space. Here she is the central figure, the artist uses her as a symbol of femininity guarding the balance on our planet. Stepping onto the field of plastic flakes we enter into the futuristic, almost dystopian landscape. The room is soaked in stroboscopic light and filled with the atmospheric music composed by Toni Castells. Large neon flowers are suspended from the ceiling, intensifying the slightly unsettling impression of a sci-fi version Garden of Eden.

Figurative sculptures shown in this room are made of recycled plastic and are accompanied by elements made of reflective materials, such as mirrors or polished metal. Oro (2019) depicts the artist’s daughter who is sitting surrounded by vertical metal bars representing a maze. Located nearby Le Marseillais (2019) is the artist’s slightly ironic self-portrait, hanging upside down from the ceiling and quite literally losing his head. Both works relate to the feeling of being lost in the world or in our own thoughts.

De Commarque’s sculptures are often based on the polyhedron shapes (for example Fluxland, a mirror-covered polyhedron sculpture mounted on a boat, which travelled from a Dutch shipyard to London in 2016 as part of an art performance). In Lovers of Pompeii (2019), shown in the current exhibition, the polyhedron has exploded. The replicas of the figures of two lovers, who were famously immortalized and preserved by the ashes of Vesuvius, are surrounded by large shards of mirrors. Multiple reflections seen from different angles intensify the dramatic feel of this iconic scene.

Lovers of Pompeii, 2019, HDPE recycled plastic, stainless steel polished mirror, 5 x 5 x 3.5 m. Courtesy the artist
Cyril de Commarque – Lovers of Pompeii (2019), installation view

In the mixed-media installation titled O2 (2019) tropical plants are imprisoned in a metal cage, surrounded by neon symbols of chemical elements and compounds found in the air. This work brings the attention to air pollution, which affects our physical health, but also intensifies our so-called ‘eco-anxiety’.

Four tonnes of flakes made of plastic collected from the beaches cover the entire floor of the main installation room. It is sobering to realize that the exact same stuff contaminates our oceans. The artist told me that the plastic came from a summer collection, dominated by fragments of colourful fizzy drinks bottles, a winter collection would have been much more gray. We walked in the summer Garden of Eden!



Artificialis by Cyril de Commarque at the Saatchi Gallery accompanies the exhibition Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh (running from 2 November 2019 until 3 May 2020). Entrance included with tickets for the Tutankhamun exhibition.


Read more:

Artist’s website:

Exhibition website:


Images courtesy of the artist.

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