“REFORMATION” FREDRIKSON STALLARD
International design duo Fredrikson Stallard have recently launched their sixth solo show at David Gill Gallery London. Using deconstructed and reformed cardboard as a basis, the recycled material has been recontextualised into monolithic slabs, volumes and collages, manipulating their inherent unique characteristics to evoke emotional quasi-abstract works.
“Working with card has in many ways similar characteristics as when we paint with oil. The different quality of the cardboard, the thickness, the different corrugations, the manipulability of the paper pulp, the colours, violently or with the gentlest touch to tear, crumple, crush and fold it into linear forms, layering it. This process speaks to us in the same way as painting. Our process becomes an amazing revelation when you get in tune with it, letting it flow from total abstraction into the figurative, creating collaged landscapes. Something we always move towards, the extraction of the emotional in these simple materials.” The finished pieces are cast in bronze, aluminium or in some instances left in the raw state of cardboard. The bronze and aluminium works are finished in either patinated black or painted in a high gloss industrial paint finish. The raw card works are solidified with resin and either left raw with all the original colouration of the card present or as with the metal works, painted in a high gloss.
We spoke with the duo to discuss all thing “reformation” and design:
Tell us about Fredrikson and Stallard and how it came about?
We met at St Martins college in 1995. Our collaboration started from the very beginning, making pieces together in the ceramic studio, and grew organically from there.
Patrik was working with an architect to set up his architectural practice from running Zaha Hadid’s office and Ian was running a successful ceramic design business on his own, designing, making, marketing and selling his own work to an international client base. It was in the little free time we had between us that we discussed our individual work, and so it was for years. Patrik slowly set up his own design practice moonlighting between the architectural work and his own. We bounced ideas off each other and so it continued for a few years, and it wasn't until we both jointly showed our work together in 2003 that we stepped back on the opening morning and realised it was one body of work. It all was seamlessly coherent and it was then an obvious path to join forces and form Fredrikson Stallard.
What are you currently working on in terms of new concepts and pieces?
Our studio is run in a cross linear manner with progression of new work. In the sense that one body of work informs the other, this in combination with a constant research of for example new technologies. All this informs us to develop our work in new engaging ways. We have already staged out the future in our heads, it is then a matter of executing this in a contemporary, relevant and engaging way.
Contractual agreements mean we are not allowed to talk about specific future projects, but coming up over the next year we have some very exciting projects spanning from large scale sculptural works and installations to reinvigorating the work of some amazing heritage design firms.
The collaborators and partners we are working with have always become like family, and working in a variety of fields has always strengthened our work. The studio is expanding, we can choose our collaborators and partners and in such a way steer the development in a conscious projective direction.
Tell us more about your latest exhibition "Reformation"?
Reformation is our sixth solo show with David Gill Gallery. The exhibition features eleven monolithic sculptural works made from cardboard, cast in bronze and finished in black, patinated bronze, polished bronze, or painted white. This new, monochrome body of work comprises coffee tables, cabinets, dining tables and wall-mounted pieces, including a diptych, which are not functional but, positioned differently, could be table tops. Furniture or art? Perception is all and the answer, clearly, is both.
The Reformation pieces are sculptural works created initially from cardboard, deconstructed and reformed into monolithic slabs, volumes and collages using different types of cardboard, manipulating their inherent unique characteristics to evoke emotional quasi-abstract works. The finished pieces are cast in bronze, aluminium or in some instances left in the raw state of cardboard. The bronze and aluminium works are finished in either patinated black or painted in a high gloss industrial paint finish. The raw card works are solidified with resin and either left raw with all the original colouration of the card present or painted in a high gloss. We deliberately chose to work with a material that is normally transient, disposable, but to then sculpt with it and immortalise it in a noble material, bronze. We go beyond simply layering the card, we actively search our different types of cardboard which have very different intrinsic qualities, the thickness, the different corrugations, the manipulability of the paper pulp, the colours, violently or with the gentlest touch to tear, crumple, crush and fold it into linear forms. We then use them as we use oil paint. Using the different types of card together is like changing brush, or the amount or turpentine you mix with the paint. The surfaces are as gestural as brush marks, and are used to create a different emotional response within each work.
Over the span of your career thus far who/what have been important influences to your work?
We both always knew we would be artists, there wasn’t any particular person that made us want to do this, it was always in our nature. There are so many artists we love, but in terms of furniture design, I remember Jurgen Bey’s Tree Trunk bench being important to us in the early days in the sense of what was possible in design.
You work often blur the lines between art and furniture, tell us about this approach and how you find the perfect balance?
The attributable functions of these works are in a constant flux between the more design related realms of the physical, the utilitarian language of design connecting to the physiologically emotional parameters of sculpture and painting. We actively chose to put some works on the wall of the Reformation exhibition. Some of these have exactly the same format as the pieces on the ground. On the wall they are universally read as non-functional works of fine art, yet on the floor they are read as coffee tables. We further deliberately make no statement of where our personal opinion may lie by giving each piece poetic titles, which themselves are deconstructed and reconstructed from works in the National Gallery and the Victoria & Albert Museum. There seems to be a need for the current world to categorize between art and design in a way which seems to be all about function. We do not categorize in the same way with our work. Notional functionality, tactility, relationship to the human body, these are often attributes which form an integral part of our work, but they do not define the work or limit it as a sculptural object in its own right. There is no hierarchy for us.
What has been the most challenging work to date?
We are perfectionists in our work, and everything faces a harsh critique and editing process from ourselves. We have to love a concept before we take it out into the world. Perhaps the biggest challenge is to make works which feel effortless – it takes a great deal of effort…
How would you both describe your own individual styles and aesthetics and how do you work together to find an equal balance?
It can be very difficult to describe in words something which is instinctive to us. I think “essentialism” is a good way to describe it, both in terms of context and the way we use materials where we allow their inner life to be part of the process and result. Our work is led by a seemingly unerring sense of rightness and not influenced by fashion or trends.
In working together the most important thing is honesty. It is healthy to disagree and important to edit harshly. The way we move forward is to keep going with passion and dedication until we find the right answer.
For more information go to: http://www.fredriksonstallard.com