Image-Maker Hugo Comte, launches his first collective works this February in the form of a curated book of imagery. The book is accompanied by an exhibition at the Tase Gallery, LA, where Comte will be exhibiting in the form of a one-week show of seven selected works in the brand new gallery space ( February 25th – March 3rd).

Intending to bring together women who’ve inspired him, the artist has created an object where all of his portraits can be viewed in one place. A combination of existing and never-before-seen imagery, featuring muses such as Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Irina Shayk, as well as Dua Lipa, for whom Comte shot her latest album imagery. The book is a celebration of women who have always been at the centre of his artistic vision. Commanding the camera, these women aren't merely subjects; Comte aims to capture their thoughts, emotions and desires… They are watching us, allowing the viewer to gaze whilst they remain completely in control. The subjects featured all possess marked differences but each becomes synchronised, encompassed in Comte’s cinematic and dreamlike spaces and creates an intimacy between the subject and the person viewing – we become a part of their dreams. This is, in no small way, due to his meticulous creative process and almost architectural approach to space, light and atmosphere. The book also showcases never before seen works including special pieces made in collaboration with airbrush artists to repaint his imagery, as well as unique CGI pieces, designed in a similar grained texture and culminating in the recognisable style for which he’s best known. The works are extremely realistic whilst retaining an air of mystery. The book itself is paired back and minimal in approach, remaining all white externally and nameless. The aim is for the book to live and be used, the white changing with time and age. Hugo worked with Art Director David McKelvey on the 200-page collection, which boasts 85 images and has only a sole barcode on its front cover, which is a symbol of huge significance to Comte. In the similar way in which artists’ name their most famous pieces, Comte has always bestowed a barcode upon each of his images; turning something digital into a more physical and material piece. When used in the book, the barcode is given more space and importance, becoming an artwork in itself and very much a symbol of the artist's work.

We had a chance to speak with Hugo about his new exhibition and book.

Tell us about your new book, what inspired it and what is your message with the newly launched book?

'The book is a hybrid retrospective; putting into perspective archives and new work together, in order to create a new narrative and narrow my identity into a precise vision of attitudes, atmosphere and colours. Creating new narratives between the muses themselves, as well as between the muses and the viewer. The book becomes an object of synchronisation, affirmation and contemplation. A style and design manifesto defining an era for the artist and whoever projects their dreams into his imagery. 

The book doesn't have a given title because I didn’t want people to associate any particular thought around this vision of women or the object itself. I wanted it to remain completely neutral and feel the collection of images are the title and don't require an additional label. The barcode is the symbol of the book, which in itself is unpronounceable and is its own language, much like Prince’s love symbol . 

What is it like for you personally to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic? Have you been able to stay creative during these times? Perhaps you developed new dreams, projects, or discovered new passions?

The process of creating, selecting, and narrowing my work for this project has really highlighted what is the most exciting and important part for me and that is my process of working with these models, as well as the importance of colour. By creating a book it has made me realise who I am as an artist, and how I want to represent myself by translating my identity through design, art and communication which is very interesting.

What do you think is the most important thing about the current times? What positive aspects can we draw from this difficult period?

'I think the entire industry started to give real credit to new creatives right away; giving a voice to new creatives with way more diversity because they want to hear new thoughts and vibes, and not waiting for validation. I think this is very beautiful and exciting and very motivating for everyone'

Tell us about the inspiring people photographed for your new book. What are some of your personal highlights?

My first thought was to use only portraits of women as I feel it is the most intimate part of my work and where I express myself the best.  Groups wouldn’t allow such intimacy as a portrait does, where it's the viewer and the woman only. When I shoot an image I always try to give the feeling that the woman is not being photographed but that she is looking through the camera, which gives a direct contact between the watcher and the muse.

A model’s depth, the intensity in her intention, and the ability to synchronise this with the way she looks is the most important thing for me.

I dedicate my entire being, energy and focus to making these women as beautiful as possible. Not just a universal vision of beauty but in a very personal way. I really look at them constantly and am very present, I am completely involved and hands-on in every part of the process, and they know that my intention and only concern the whole day is to dedicate myself to them.

We also had a delight speaking with Jessie Andrews, founder of Tase Gallery in LA.

What exhibitions  do you have planned for in Tase Gallery for the coming months?

Hugo is the first exhibition outside of my own. For the month of March for Women’s Month we have rotating female artist each week that will be featured, and in April we have Claude Home who is a NYC based mid-century furniture collector who will replicate her studio at Tase. In May we’re working with ‘Structure’ a segment of Better Shelter — the Ikea Foundation and the UN created a humanitarian innovation project which finds housing solutions for refugees — they will be building a structure inside of the gallery and we will allow people to come see and donate to the NFP. 

With your new opening of your own gallery, what inspired you to open it?

I wanted to change the way people interact with fashion and art. More communal than cold. Life is about community and supporting each other and now I have a space where I can do that!  

Tell us something that is not on your resume.

Coffee connoisseur. 

What is your biggest lesson learnt from 2020?

2020 for me was the year that made me dive deeper into what I was already doing and take time for myself. I learned who I really wanted to spend time with, what projects I actually cared about and what excites me. It helped me refine the gallery project. Made me create sustainably initiatives for Bagatiba. Plan further ahead for my ready to wear project Jeu. Now in 2021 I must put them all into effect! 

Timotej Letonja