Carol O’Callaghan takes a look at what’s in store for visitors to the London Design Festival this weekend
There’s no official Irish pavilion at this year’s London Design Festival to promote our craft designers and makers to international buyers, collectors and influencers.
At a time when Irish design has developed a reputation on a par with the Scandinavians, and even a place as small as the Balearic Islands has an official presence, it’s disappointing that Design Ireland, so visibly flaunted during Year of Design 2015, is noticeable by its absence.
But attending Tent London, in the Truman’s Brewery premises on Hanbury Street, E1, lighting and furniture designer Shane Holland is helping make the Irish presence felt. Identifying reuses in industrial components has long been a theme of his work, which now includes his Cruise pendant lights made from recovered aviation and industrial pressure cylinders. No stranger to the London Design Festival — it’s his sixth time at Tent — his work can also be seen at the 3-star Michelin restaurant Eneko at One Aldwych.
Also contributing to an Irish presence are pottery makers Arran Street East with their pared back vessels in muted tones, and by contrast, Helen Faulkner Ceramics with its emphasis on strong colours.
Mullan Lighting makes an appearance in Olympia at 100% Design, which is normally opened to trade only, but today invites the general public in, while over at Syon Park, Decorex which showcases luxury products, has Zelouf & Bell exhibiting among its cabinetry and tables, a drinks cabinet called Gimlet. Named after the gin and lime cocktail of the 1920s, it’s constructed of sycamore with polished aluminium inlays, with detailing in stainless steel, sterling silver and cobalt stone, with leather-lined drawers.
But one of the must-see venues of this year’s festival is the V&A. As one of the world’s leading museums for design and art, it’s filled three of its spaces with specially commissioned, site specific installations by international contemporary designers.
The 35 metre-long Prince Consort Gallery houses Reflection Room, an immersive, coloured light experience which illuminates the gallery from end to end and up into the vaulted ceiling. It’s the work of Australian light artist and designer, Flynn Talbot, who explains: “I conceived the idea standing in the gallery and wanted to add my story on top of the beautiful existing architecture, but not to take it over. I wanted to create new experiences using light that build a connection between people and place.”
The result is 56 custom-made, futuristic textile panels in glossy black, with blue and orange lighting which creates multi-faceted reflections, giving the impression of being in a chapel of light. Given that the gallery previously housed over 30,000 textile samples, it pays homage to the history of the room itself.
Welsh artist and industrial designer Ross Lovegrove has also opted for sheer scale with an installation called Transmission. It takes over a space 21 metres long, filling it with a three-dimensional, free-standing tapestry made of tactile, sound absorbent materials, using modern technology in the application of colour and digital embroidery.
It cites the organic, high-tech forms for which the designer is known and which, so far, he has applied to designs for cars, aircraft interiors, cameras, watches and street furniture, and is now using to respond to the V&A’s Devonshire Hunting Tapestries. Reckoned to be made between 1430 and 1450, these medieval wall hangings depict scenes of aristocratic court fashion and of hunting boar, bear and swan.
Lovegrove’s installation has now recreated the tapestries’ colour, using gold and silver threads which create an ornamental pattern of over two million flecks running along the edge of the work and which glint in the gallery lighting.
The V&A’s Medieval and Renaissance Room takes on the work of Palestinian designers Elias and Yousef Anasta with a structure inspired by the landscape of rocky terraces which characterise the Cremisan Valley near Bethlehem. Entitled While We Wait, it’s a self-supporting structure made of stone quarried in Palestine and inhabits the intersection between design and contemporary art. Designed digitally, it’s been cut by robots and finished by hand.
For the visitor, the structure is an interactive space where they can feel the texture of the stone and experience an ambient sound track as if they were entering the Cremisan Valley itself. After the London Design Festival, the installation will tour to Dubai and then move permanently to the Cremisan Valley as a celebration of the relationship between nature and architecture there.
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