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Michael Anastassiades’ 13 Mobiles

Sep 6, 2017

The London-based designer speaks of the inspiration behind his upcoming exhibition at Brussels’ Atelier Jespers, the role of the sphere in his work and that looming question: How’s Brexit?

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Text by Rab Messina

For 13 Mobiles, his Brussels Design September exhibition at Atelier Jespers, Michael Anastassiades is combining light and movement. The former is an obvious choice for the designer, but the latter comes from a newfound curiosity to see how brass, opaline and the fluid shadows they cast can interact with a rigid space.

Prior to his lecture at Flagey, we talked with the Cyprus-born, London-based designer about the themes in his work, how Miró, Calder and Victor Bourgeois came together in this exhibition, and the psychological impact of Brexit on his practice.

TLmag: A few weeks ago I noticed that, on a moodboard you did for The New York Times Style Magazine, you chose Magritte’s Le Banquet as an inspiration for your practice. It made me chuckle, because I thought: “Of course Michael Anastassiades would pick a painting featuring an orb-like element.” Why is the spherical shape a favourite in your work?
Michael Anastassiades: For me it’s the ultimate kind of form. The sphere itself is everywhere around us, especially in nature. I have a fascination with geometry, and also with perfection, so for me, it captures it in the utmost way.

TLmag: Indeed, you made a piece inspired by Japanese pearl divers where it was orb galore, with a literal quality to it that is not usually found in your other pieces. Where did that come from?
MA: I think all of my works are somehow related to each other, with this idea of repetition over form. With a circular form, it made sense, especially for that installation —depending on how far you deviate from that idea, the piece can become decorative. I have no problems with decoration, either. I think there is a place for everything, even in my work. For me the challenge is more about how much do you distill that idea, how much do you actually purify it, up to the point that what actually remains is the essence. That’s the most important thing that I’ve managed to achieve. So, in that sense, even that particular piece I find quite similar to the rest.

TLmag: You’ve certainly done some distilling with the lean lines of 13 Mobiles, which evolved from the influence of the likes of Joan Miró.
MA: Not just Joan Miró… You can’t deny the homage to Calder. Calder was the man whose name stands next to mobiles in general. The challenge for me, and what I wanted to communicate with this work, was trying to introduce lighting in the concept of balance. I like that association, bringing these two together.

What’s also interesting and exciting is being able to work with the dynamic parts in these pieces; the fact that the light configuration can change endlessly and constantly by moving these arms around. It’s not just one single kind of setting. It can change in multiple ways.

TLmag: So you have the capability of movement and change within these pieces. How did you prepare them for an interaction with the modernist Maison Victor Bourgeois, where Atelier Jespers is located?
MA: You cannot have control of the space where an object or a fixture that you design is going to be, but what you can actually achieve is the ability of an object to fit or to exist within a space, becoming independent of it, but at the same time letting it have a conversation with the space itself.

What’s exciting in these particular pieces is the interaction not only with the space, but also with the objects that are within that environment. Let’s not forget that light is directly related to shadows, and for me that’s a very interesting conversation: the dialogue between the light fixture regarding the other objects around it. How are the shadows cast in terms of its own form, but at the same time, the shadow of other objects that are in the room? I’m interested in that unpredictability that exists within.

TLmag: What do you plan to communicate during your upcoming lecture at Flagey for Brussels Design September?
MA: The talk is more about my work, about the experience of how the work has evolved over the years. It’s my journey, in the sense of how I’ve managed an independent practice. It’s important to communicate that, because I’ve never really produced any work based on the notion of commercial success. For me, it’s never been a priority. The journey that I took to set up my own brand and produce my own designs has been fundamental: I’ve always wanted to create things from a place of independence and freedom.

TLmag: You come from Cyprus and you work in the UK in the creative industries. When the referendum results were announced, you talked about your hopes that Brexit wouldn’t change your professional environment. Has it?
MA: Sadly, everybody is going to be affected by this process. I’m already seeing the consequences of that. There’s been an environment of unwelcomeness that has developed in the UK, and especially in London.

I managed to obtain the British passport. The reason why I became a British citizen only two years ago was because I really believed in Europe all these years. I’ve been in the UK for more than 27 years, and everybody was asking me: “Why don’t you have the British nationality?”. I always said: “I am an European… What is the point of having yet another passport?” But it was the time to do it, and I did it.

It has had an effect on the people that I work with. I employ a lot of European citizens, people that come from Italy and Germany. Unfortunately, I’ve lost a couple of them in the last two years because of that. Psychologically, they felt that there was no future for them here. That restricts freedom in many ways.

13 Mobiles is open from September 7 until October 2

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Façade of the Maison Victor Bourgeois, home of Atelier Jespers. Image by Filip Dujardin.
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