Photograph by Muriel Thies
If you love the look of movies such as The Nightmare Before Christmas and The City of Lost Children, there’s a sculptor out there after your own heart. In fact, none of StÃ©phane Halleux’s darkly whimsical renderings — robotic wheelchairs, squat submarines, armored cars, men with mechanical bat wings, animal soldiers wearing hand-stitched leather gas masks, a 30-inch cyclist whose suit includes electrodes that generate energy — would be out of place in these fantasy flicks.
Two years ago, the former comic-book illustrator got sick of drawing “uninteresting things for other people” and started building the lanky-limbed, roboticized characters he enjoyed doodling — ominously cartoonish forms that are futuristic yet also recall the past.
Now, Halleux works on his sculptures full time out of his home in the Belgian countryside, where he lives with his partner and their two boys. He sketches the rounded and slumped shapes, then coaxes the creatures from wood, metal, and hide, using scrounged antique parts for appendages and each of the fine details.
“It’s as if these old, saved elements, full of history, were giving a soul to the final work,” Halleux says of his recycled materials. “I like crazy mixtures, unlikely associations, advanced technology mixed with mechanisms of long ago.”
The seemingly mechanical conformations give the impression that they are capable of rolling, taking off, or — in the case of the cyclist — pedaling. But actual movement is all in the spectator’s mind, Halleux says.
“Each one has an invented history. If I really wanted to animate them seriously, the form and atmosphere would suffer. I think imagination is stronger than a working light or a turning propeller.”
>> Halleux’s Collection: www.stephanehalleux.com