Have A Cigar: Valnoir On Experimental Art

Artist Valnoir with his cat
(Image credit: William Lacalmont)

“I have a fanbase who don’t know who is behind the artwork,” says Jean-Emmanuel ‘Valnoir’ Simoulin, discussing his new art book Fire Work With Me.

The astounding compendium of 15 years worth of prints, posters and album cover artwork is an enthralling insight into the mind of a modern artistic visionary.

Having worked with prog-enthused bands like Ulver, Amorphis and post-rockers Alcest, the Parisian artiste of the underground music scene oscillates between striking symmetrical totalitarian visuals and sinuous mystical symbolic shapes.

“We gave Valnoir free range and I’m really happy with the result. It’s not your usual prog album cover,” says Esa Holopainen, founder and lead guitarist of Amorphis, about the design for Under The Red Cloud.

Working from his Metastazis studio, the artist’s penchant for experimental work and outside-the-box ideas have led him to creating posters using human blood and inks made from ground-up bones and coffin wood. He was also bestowed the honour of grinding up the original fire-damaged masters from Ulver’s debut album Bergtatt and creating iconic memorabilia from the ashes.

My next project will feature an artistic use of wine…

“For my experimental work, the idea usually comes from me and the concept needs to be coherent with the band or album,” he says. “My next project will feature an artistic use of wine for a band that skillfully blends the thematic of booze and mysticism.”

All these stories are collected in Fire Work With Me, along with an array of praising quotes about the creations from various musicians. He’s even collaborated with the controversial and progressive Neue Slowenische Kunst on various projects. Last year, Valnoir played a part in organising for Laibach to play in North Korea last year.

“When I really love the music, the level of motivation that I put into my work makes the money aspect completely irrelevant. This is how I feel when I work with bands that really captivate me.”

Ulver’s Kristoffer Rygg best describes the artist in his book as: “… a promise – nay, guarantee – of eye candy. A true rock star of design.”

See the Metastazis website for more.

Isere Lloyd-Davis

Isère is an international journalist and Prog magazine contributor since 2014. With over 15 years of experience in print, online and radio journalism, Isère’s feature articles and reviews have been published in music, art, fashion, interior design and travel publications. Having interviewed over a hundred bands since her music journalist career began, Isère has a knack for discovering new talent and projecting emerging artists into the limelight. She specialises in obscure progressive music, occult rock and extreme metal, and in her spare time, Isère is mostly watching live music, visiting art galleries and learning Russian.