Outer lim­its

Con­cept artist Stephan Mar­tinière

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS - Con­cept artist STEPHAN MAR­TINIÈRE

Alone fig­ure, a staff in his hand and car­ry­ing a knap­sack loaded with pro­vi­sions, walks the streets of a dystopian land­scape — pos­si­bly an Amer­i­can city of the fu­ture or an ur­ban cen­ter on a planet not un­like our own. He passes a mas­sive stone gar­goyle, per­haps once a sen­tinel that stood at the city gates but now just a bro­ken relic from a night­mare world. Scav­enger birds reel in the sky as men­ac­ing, cathe­dral-like tow­ers loom in the back­ground. This melan­cholic de­pic­tion of a city in win­ter is one of many worlds en­vi­sioned by con­cept artist Stephan Mar­tinière. Chances are, if you’re a gamer, a reader of science fic­tion and fan­tasy, or a watcher of sci-fi movies and tele­vi­sion, you’ve seen his work. Known for his elab­o­rate, vi­sion­ary land­scapes and cityscapes of alien and fu­ture worlds, Mar­tinière made his mark on the genre in gam­ing, lit­er­a­ture, movies, and even theme parks, in­flu­enc­ing an en­tire gen­er­a­tion’s con­cepts of what to­mor­row might hold.

His far-out con­cepts can be seen in Be­yond the Hori­zon: Fu­turescapes by Stephan Mar­tinière, open­ing Fri­day, Sept. 23, at Pop Gallery. The show’s scenes de­pict alien ter­rain, tech­nol­ogy, and ar­chi­tec­ture that’s si­mul­ta­ne­ously rec­og­niz­able and un­like any land­scape, ci­tyscape, or tech­nol­ogy known to us to­day. For in­stance, his book cover de­sign for L. Neil Smith’s novel The Amer­i­can Zone (Tor Books, 2001) de­picts a city of stream­lined Art Deco-style ar­chi­tec­ture, along with air­ships that look like a hy­brid be­tween rock­ets and di­ri­gi­bles. “One of the fun parts of de­sign­ing en­vi­ron­ments and ar­chi­tec­ture the way I’m do­ing it is, I’m not push­ing it so far that it’s in­com­pre­hen­si­ble,” Mar­tinière told Pasatiempo. “I’m us­ing data and in­for­ma­tion that peo­ple are al­ready fa­mil­iar with. To me, that’s the at­trac­tion to it. It has to be able to show the viewer some­thing fa­mil­iar, be­cause oth­er­wise, all I’m do­ing is cre­at­ing an ab­strac­tion, and I’m not of­fer­ing the viewer the pos­si­bil­ity of see­ing him­self liv­ing in that en­vi­ron­ment, be­cause it would be too alien.”

Mar­tinière grew up in France in the 1960s, and his early am­bi­tion was to be a comic book artist. “When you look at the ’60s in France, the comic book was boom­ing,” he said. “There was a rich­ness of styles and an enor­mous amount of comics that were avail­able.

Of his work, Stephan Mar­tinière says, “It has to be able to show the viewer some­thing fa­mil­iar, be­cause oth­er­wise, all I’m do­ing is cre­at­ing an ab­strac­tion, and I’m not of­fer­ing the viewer the pos­si­bil­ity of see­ing him­self liv­ing in that en­vi­ron­ment.”

There still is, but there was even more so in the ’60s and ’70s. I call that the golden age of comic books. That’s what I started do­ing early on.” Mar­tinière’s ca­reer plans held un­til he en­tered art school in 1979 and then an­i­ma­tion school in the early 1980s. “I re­al­ized there’s a whole new world out there for me to ex­plore,” he said. “My first job in an­i­ma­tion flew me to Japan, where I dis­cov­ered Manga and a whole new way of ap­proach­ing art.” While liv­ing in Los An­ge­les in the ’90s, he started re­think­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ties for his tal­ents as an il­lus­tra­tor and graphic artist. “I was in the right place to make that hap­pen.”

His first ven­ture into film was as a con­cept artist for di­rec­tor Luc Bes­son’s 1997 sci-fi ac­tion ad­ven­ture The Fifth El­e­ment. “That was a very in­ter­est­ing project,” he said. “I was work­ing with a friend of mine for an an­i­ma­tion com­pany. He had some con­tacts with peo­ple in the film in­dus­try in France, ac­tu­ally, be­cause there was a bunch of French guys work­ing in the states. Luc Bes­son at the time was in­ter­ested in bring­ing the project to Los An­ge­les to try to make it there, and that’s how I be­came con­nected to the film and got to work on it.”

Since The Fifth El­e­ment, Mar­tinière has worked on de­signs for I, Robot; Tron: Le­gacy; Star Wars episodes II and III; The Hunger Games; and Avengers: Age of

Ul­tron, to name a few. He’s also done 2D and 3D an­i­ma­tions for Disney and Univer­sal; cre­ated de­signs for theme parks in Shang­hai, Hong Kong, and Dubai; and cre­ated sto­ry­boards for Warner Broth­ers, Columbia TriS­tar, and Dream­works projects. But the com­mis­sions that af­ford him the most cre­ative free­dom are for book cov­ers. “Some­times when I do book cov­ers, the sub­ject mat­ter is not so spe­cific be­cause it’s not so dic­tated by the writ­ing. I still have to get a sense of the story. Are we talk­ing about a dystopian fu­ture or a utopian fu­ture? That will shape the kind of ar­chi­tec­ture that I would think about and ex­plore. If it’s a utopian fu­ture, I tend to be in touch with what’s go­ing on in the ar­chi­tec­ture world and the cur­rent think­ing of where ar­chi­tec­ture could be head­ing. I ex­trap­o­late and ex­pand on that. When it’s a dystopian fu­ture, it’s pretty much the same ap­proach, ex­cept now the ar­chi­tec­ture is not go­ing to be so friendly. Shapes would be very dif­fer­ent, most likely less or­ganic and more bru­tal be­cause of the na­ture of a dystopian en­vi­ron­ment. When I was work­ing on The Hunger Games, that was the idea: cre­at­ing a very un­friendly type of en­vi­ron­ment with build­ings that were very rem­i­nis­cent of Nazi and Com­mu­nist-type ar­chi­tec­ture. When I read and there’s just a very vague de­scrip­tion of what the city is or what the en­vi­ron­ment is, that makes my job su­per fun. As long as I un­der­stand the sense of the story, the time pe­riod, the tech­nol­ogy, and the so­cial, eco­nom­i­cal, and po­lit­i­cal con­text of the story, I can shape the city I want based on that.”

The gam­ing and film in­dus­tries are more re­stric­tive than de­sign­ing book cov­ers be­cause Mar­tinière is typ­i­cally work­ing with a story that is in­tended to be told us­ing a vis­ual medium and, in the case of film, is bound by the di­rec­tor’s and pro­duc­tion de­signer’s vi­sions. He can work on con­cept art for a film only to see it end up on the prover­bial cut­ting room floor. Un­til he has seen the fin­ished film in the theater, he doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily know how much, if any, of his work has been used. “You could have worked for weeks on a con­cept and sud­denly they dis­card it be­cause it’s no longer rel­e­vant, not nec­es­sar­ily be­cause the con­cept is not good, but be­cause ei­ther the di­rec­tor changed his mind or for other rea­sons. A good case in point is Sui­cide Squad .I worked for months and months on that project. I would say maybe 10 per­cent of what I did made it on the screen. Same thing in Star Wars .I did a lot of con­cepts for dif­fer­ent plan­ets with dif­fer­ent ar­chi­tec­tures. At some point in the story, the Em­pire de­cides to go as­sas­si­nate all of the Jedis on dif­fer­ent worlds. We had to come up with all th­ese vi­su­als of dif­fer­ent

plan­ets, but they cut a huge amount of it be­cause the se­quence was too long and, story-wise, it was just drag­ging. In some films, the end re­sult was in­cred­i­bly faith­ful — I could see ev­ery­thing I did. That’s ex­tremely re­ward­ing as an artist. The best cases I can re­mem­ber were To­tal Recall and I, Robot, two films where, pretty much, I can look at ev­ery sin­gle el­e­ment of a city, and I can see what I did. When I work on films, I have to be very grounded. Di­rec­tors in gen­eral don’t like to ap­proach any kind of en­vi­ron­ment — as cool as they need to be — in a way that’s so ab­stract that no­body can un­der­stand it, be­cause then they lose their au­di­ence. You can play with fa­mil­iar el­e­ments, and you twist them to give them a dif­fer­ent di­men­sion.”

Among his most re­ward­ing film ex­pe­ri­ences was work­ing on di­rec­tor Alex Proyas’ 2009 film Know­ing. It was a quick project, in which Proyas ap­proached Mar­tinière with a chal­lenge to cre­ate a con­cept for an alien or su­per­nat­u­ral pres­ence of an am­bigu­ous na­ture. “There are th­ese two unique alien el­e­ments at the very end that try to ex­plain the whole film,” Mar­tinière said. “Alex Proyas said, ‘I’m do­ing a very dark film. There is an el­e­ment in the film that car­ries the whole thing, and if we do it wrong, it’s a flop. It has to be done right. I don’t want to say if it’s re­li­gious in na­ture, but I also don’t want to say that it’s sci­en­tific in na­ture. I want the viewer to de­cide for them­selves.’ So I had to con­vey a de­sign that makes that hap­pen. That was su­per chal­leng­ing. Sure enough, they kept ev­ery­thing. When you work on projects like this, where you can see your work be­ing used, that com­pen­sates for the other projects, where you see only a small per­cent­age. But that’s the na­ture of the in­dus­try.”

Stephan Mar­tinière: cover de­sign for L. Neil Smith’s The Amer­i­can Zone, 2001, mixed me­dia; op­po­site page, top, Through the Wreck­age, in­spired by Star Wars, mixed me­dia; bot­tom, Euromer­ica, con­cept art for To­tal Recall, 2012, mixed me­dia

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.