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Asian Living, Portraits of Style Visionaries
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As the largest of the seven continents and home to 48 countries, Asia is a wonderful melting pot of values, attitudes and beliefs, deeply rooted in tradition, family, respect and honour. For decades it has been the world’s manufacturing powerhouse. Throw in the mix an ever-expanding rapid exchange of ideas between the East and West, our new generation of technologically literate designers and artists coming out of Asia today are blurring the boundaries, blending Asian culture with western style, in a way that we have never seen before.

In this month’s issue, our Style Visionaries discuss how a profound affinity for nature, coupled with centuries of history and traditional crafts, makes contemporary Asian design exceptional. Fascinated by how East meets West in a creative sense, we asked the following three key questions:

1. Which Asian craft or practice do you most admire?

2. Do Asian symbols hold significance in your work and life? Do you incorporate Feng Sui into your design?

3. Do you have one particular personality from the Asian continent that has inspired you work?

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SETSUKO NAGASAWA

There is something strong and impalpable about celebrated Japanese artist Setsuko Nagasawa’s work. Her ceramics project the “idea” of being massive sculptures while in reality their proportions are those of manageable objects. Although her vision is completely contemporary, there is subtlety and sensitivity, while her palette of black, white and terracotta gives majesty to her pieces.  Having studied in Kyoto, Geneva and California, Nagasawa exhibits in renowned European and Japanese galleries.  She also designs ceramic plates and accessories, bringing splendor and beauty to everyday objects.

 

1. Which Asian craft or practice do you most admire?
What I admire most are ceramics and textiles. I am interested in both the variety and craftsmanship of handmade weaving, especially in Japan and Africa, and the tie dye process. In my own practice, I am fascinated by the transformation that fire brings to clay. I work with raw clay from the mountains or meadows, without adding anything to it. The wet, raw material is a deep yellow colour that becomes orange after cooking.  The colour black derives from an ancestral technique we have in Japan that is used in the making of roof tiles. The fire induces smoke that is absorbed by the clay, giving the object its black colouring. The outline between two sections is always irregular, which is a detail I love. It calls up evocations of the sky and the clouds. In my creations, the use of smoke refers to the passing of time.

2. Do Asian symbols hold significance in your work and life? Do you incorporate Feng Sui into your design?
Asiatic symbolic does not inspire me neither does Feng Shui. I see my work as very personal and self-contained, completely contemporary. This is why I appreciate the subtle approach to luxury at Esensual Living, such as the Libeco Baden bath towels or Kajaal’s lamb’s wool throws.

3. Do you have one particular personality from the Asian continent that has inspired you work?
My Master in ceramics, Kaenkichi Tomimoto, for his modernity.  Also for the way he passed his work philosophy on to his students. He studied interior design in London in 1908, which gave him a special approach to scale. This in turn inspired me to study sculpture in Geneva to complete my training, but I see myself first and foremost as a ceramist.

www.galerie-capazza.com

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Courtesy of Setsuko Nagasawa
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Courtesy of Setsuko Nagasawa
 
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SUBHAS KIM KANDASAMY

Subhas Kim Kandasamy started a nomadic art gallery Kandasamy Projects last year to enable emerging and established designers to reach international audiences during important design events such as Frieze. Essentially a pop-up gallery, this unique roving concept is a departure from traditional settings in which intense, experimental multi-media environments are created. The recent exhibition To Have and To Hold by designers JamesPlumb comprised a collection of furniture assemblages and chandelier with video projection.  Prior to founding Kandasamy Projects with co-founder Ariana Mouyiaris, Kandasamy was Director at the renowned Carpenters Workshop Gallery in London.

 

1. Which Asian craft or practice do you most admire?
Since my days in the History of Art department of the SOAS in London, I have been enthralled by the art of East Asian ceramics. Although the processes have changed little, the contemporary ceramics produced today are vastly different from those of their predecessors, yet at the same time pay homage to them. Each of the ingredients that go into making a ceramic work is as important as the next, a slight variation in quantity can produce a completely different aesthetic. The beauty of ceramics is conveyed through a simple vocabulary that cuts beyond language or socio-political backgrounds. This is what I try to achieve through my interiors. I favour understated luxury, subtle mixes, such as the greys of the Granito blankets from Teixidors which beautifully with the Selena bed linen from Caravane.

2. Do Asian symbols hold significance in your work and life? Do you incorporate Feng Sui into your design?
I am constantly looking at Asian motifs, such as those found in Indonesian batik or Chinese paintings, as means of reminding me to break out of the stereotype of found shapes. I don’t necessarily use these motifs as they are found in classical art, as I think that would be a cliché, but instead view them as a point of departure from which to explore introducing them into a European context.

3. Do you have one particular personality from the Asian continent that has inspired you work?
Gosh, this list could potentially be endless. To list three, Ai Wei Wei, especially for his Venice Biennale project, Lee Kwang Ho for the brilliant emerging designer that he is, and Pearl Lam for paving the way for all Asian galleries and gallerists… her determination and fortitude really inspire me to seek out new potentials and challenges.

www.kandasamyprojects.com

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Courtesy of Kandasamy Projects
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Courtesy of Kandasamy Projects
 
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BRUNO DE CAUMONT

Furniture and interior designer Bruno de Caumont’s inspiration stems from his deep understanding of 18th century Decorative Arts and a strong love for contemporary design.  After living in Paris and Brussels where he founded Caumont Interiors, he settled in Vietnam and set up The French Factory to oversee the manufacture of his handmade, sophisticated lacquered furniture.  Using traditional methods that date from the 16th century, de Caumont’s innate sense of colour and proportions and his unique ability to mix the past and present while rethinking the cultural ties between eastern and western design, have given his creations a unique flavour and an inimitable signature.

 

 

1. Which Asian craft or practice do you most admire?
When I was an antique dealer at the Paris Flea Market, buying old boxes and lacquer trays from the 19th century for myself, I had no idea that my life would take a new direction and that I would end up living in Vietnam! When I started designing furniture, I looked for a way to cover surfaces. I thought about lacquer, a sumptuous material that offers a fantastic range of colours. Lacquer is also one of the most precious and oldest materials in Asia – lacquer ware furniture and objects were sought after in Europe for their beauty and remarkable quality during the 17th and 18th century. The lacquering process reproduces the serenity and perfection conveyed by eastern culture. This traditional process is not only a witness to an ancient tradition, but also reunites aesthetic codes and a way of thinking, of imagining.

2. Do Asian symbols hold significance in your work and life? Do you incorporate Feng Sui into your design?
I design in the tradition of the 18th century French cabinet makers, although today, with new customers in Asia, I have to adapt my furniture colours to meet their requests to adhere to Feng Sui rules that state each person has his own set of favourable tones.  For my projects I often use Caravane’s Luni and Lave cushions available on Esensual Living because they have the most wonderful choice of colours.  

3. Do you have one particular personality from the Asian continent that has inspired you work?
My new collection Annam is inspired by a small table I found in an antique shop in Saigon. Through creating this line of furniture, I hope to introduce a new way of seeing traditional Asian shapes through western eyes.

www.caumont-interiors.com

 

Copyright Aramon d'Harambure, Aurélia d'Harambure, Benjamin Juveneton, Charles E. Barnes, Caroline Menne

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Fédérico Cimatti
 

 

 

ANGELICA STEUDEL

If one were to believe in past lives, Angelica’s Steudel’s could easily have been in Japan, such is her profound understanding of Japanese culture and sensitivity.  A former art director for German Vogue, Madame Figaro and AD France, Steudel has also worked for Comme des Garçons and recently designed fabrics for Sonia Rykiel’s new creative director Geraldo da Conceiçao.  Steudel’s love for understated decoration is evident in her ceramics, paper and textiles designs, working with fabrics made from traditional Japanese materials, such as bamboo and washi (handmade Japanese paper) that are 100% natural.  She exhibits her work in Europe and Japan.

 

1. Which Asian craft or practice do you most admire?
I have a lot of admiration for Asian craft, especially the Japanese aesthetics, for their refined, subtle materials, colours and high respect for the “savoir faire” that has existed over generations. I especially love ceramic art and calligraphy - both require lengthy practice, meditation and a dialogue with nature to express the essential gesture of “oneness”. I especially admire that strength.

2. Do Asian symbols hold significance in your work and life? Do you incorporate Feng Sui into your design?
I like black and white, the ultimate contrast and subtle colours, non colours. I don’t integrate Feng Shui in my work. I mostly follow my intuition. I am also very attached to the “green” attitude. I use the purest materials for my work and this is why I appreciate Esensual Living’s position towards ecology. I particularly like the Teixidors’ light throws and WOO’s great 100% recycled scented candles.

3. Do you have one particular personality from the Asian continent that has inspired you work?
During my time as an art director, I met Issey Miyake whose creations I admire. His colour sensibility is extraordinary. He introduced me to the work of some of his artistic friends, such as the artist and landscape designer Isamu Nogushi, the graphic designer Ikko Tanaka and the furniture designer Shiro Kuramata, and also to Japanese craftsmanship.

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Fédérico Cimatti
asian-living asian-living
Fédérico Cimatti
 
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Courtesy of Gallery Chantal Crouset
 

HAEGUE YANG

Haegue Yang is acknowledged as one of the most inventive and leading international artists of her generation.

Inspired by politics, poetry and the contemporary way of life, Yang creates poly-sensorial spaces through complex installations made out of everyday objects, such as venetian blinds, drying racks, fans and light bulbs.In everyday life, she likes to surround herself with simple and pure accessories, such as those from the Finnish brand Aava, available at Esensual Living.

Born in Seoul in 1971, Yang represented South Korea at the 2009 Venice Biennale and now divides her time between Korea and Germany. Her work is on show at the Green Naftali Gallery in New York and the Chantal Crousel Gallery in Paris.  In October, Yang will present a major piece called “Drifting Tree House with Orangey Branches” at the Galerie des Galeries in Paris, as part of The Tyranny of Objects exhibition.

 

1. Which Asian craft or practice do you most admire?
Ceramics, from Korea. There is a history to discover, a philosophy, a change of society that is reflected in ceramics. I admire the deep root of this art form as it is noble, sublime, and deeply grounded in life and society, equipped with both modesty and splendidness.  

2. Do Asian symbols hold significance in your work and life? Do you incorporate Feng Sui into your design?
Nothing particularly. But I am very interested in the imaginary creatures from ancient Asian tales. Some of them can be found in the ancient mural ‘The Four Guardian Gods’ dating from the Goguryeo Kingdom, which is located in North Korea, and therefore a place I cannot visit, what a tragedy! There is very little info about these amazing murals available  in English... I guess so.. I believe that geography plus philosophy or spirit is an inspiring combination, which we could and should take more seriously. We are facing a new demand in which we are required to be more aware of the relationship of 'us' and 'our' environment. Feng Shui definitely guides us, not geographically, but as a mental awareness of ‘us’ in this world. Like ceramics embody a philosophy, for me Feng Shui is a political consciousness of us being on this globe.

3. Do you have one particular personality from the Asian continent that has inspired you work?
There are many from Asia who have inspired my work.  To mention a few: Isang Yun (composer), Kyungsik Suh (writer) and San Kim (communist, Korean independence fighter).

www.heikejung.de

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Courtesy of Gallery Wien Lukatsch
asian-living asian-living
Courtesy of Gallery Wien Lukatsch
 

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