Brussels Design September
Design enthusiasts were treated to a focus on ceramics and the opportunity to visit makers in their studios.
SEPTEMBER IS A hectic month in Europe’s design calendar, taking in the London Design Festival, Paris Design Week and Brussels Design September. Now in its fourteenth edition, the latter included more than 100 events taking place across the Belgian capital – from gallery shows and fairs, to open studios. The aim was to raise the profile of Brussels as “a city of design” and stimulate contemporary creation. “We want to offer something different from most of the other design weeks, which is why we’ve included studio visits as part of the programme,” said Roel Rijssenbeek, Brussels Design September’s artistic director.
One of the focuses of this edition was ceramics. At Studio CityGate, a vast, former pharmaceutical building that houses a dozen creative studios of young designers making furniture, jewellery and textiles, visitors were invited to view the ceramics studio of La Gadoue atelier – Eloïse Maës and Audrey Werthle, who both graduated from Design Academy Eindhoven in 2016.
Werthle presented her series of objects, ‘In the Pool’, whose rippling forms and blue shades draw inspiration from the geology of a volcano in Indonesia. Her wall sculpture, ‘A Mountain on the Wall’, meanwhile, began from a 3D computer-generated image based on a map of the Pyrénées in France and was realised using a CNC mill to cut precise, stratified layers into plywood. The space in-between the two mountainous halves can be used for shelving.
Nearby, Maës, a transdisciplinary designer, has been exploring ways of making experimental, 3D-printed objects in gradients of cobalt blue for a research project, ‘3Depth’ (2016). The tension between the computerised model and unpredictable behaviour of clay is visible in the curved volumes and undulating lines. Also on display were her small-scale, geometric objects and vases.
Ceramics were also spotlighted in a group exhibition at Area 42, an events venue. Curated by Jean-François Declercq (founder of Atelier Jespers) and Aurélien Gendras (a dealer in modern and contemporary ceramics at Marché Paul Serpette in the St-Ouen flea market in Paris) – with support from Modern Shapes Gallery in Antwerp – it assembled works by 20 Belgian and international ceramicists.
“We started by looking at architectural, sculptural ceramics and neo-archaism – pieces that reflect on archaeology in a contemporary way,” Declercq said. Talking about the range of artists of different generations, he added, “Enric Mestre is an 85-year-old artist in Valencia who makes constructions of micro-architecture that remind me of Giorgio De Chirico, while Grégoire Scalabre – a French ceramicist in his forties, aligned with Tony Cragg and the Portuguese artist Bela Silva – creates a floral universe of tall vases and objects brimming with petals.”
Among the other eye-catching pieces were: Maarten Stuer’s brutalist, abstract furniture pieces; Canadian artist David Umemoto’s concrete structures; and utilitarian objects by La Gadoue Atelier and Bernard Champon that highlight demand for hand-made pieces.
Declercq hosts an exhibition space called Atelier Jespers in his house. For Atelier Jespers’s fifth participation in Brussels Design September, Declercq decided to showcase a diversity of furniture by the Lebanese designer Marc Baroud (who divides his time between Paris and Beirut). The highlight is Baroud’s collection of tables with fluid, organically curved shapes, with tabletops in pink marble from Portugal and in green marble from Lebanon. Both sets of tables, which appear like an archipelago in the ground floor space, were produced in Venice.
Marc Baroud, installation view of ‘Segment’ coffee tables, 2019
PHOTOGRAPH: © Jeroen Verrecht
“Baroud’s collection of tables with tabletops in pink marble from Portugal, and in green marble from Lebanon …”
Marc Baroud, ‘Segment’ coffee table, 2019 (close up)
PHOTOGRAPH: © Jeroen Verrecht
“… Both sets of tables, which appear like an archipelago in the ground floor space, were produced in Venice”
The focus on ceramics continued with the Belgian designer Xavier Lust, whose extensive work spans furniture and interior architecture. He had created a limited edition range of vases whose elegantly curved shapes were reminiscent of calla lilies. Titled ‘Arums’, the pieces were handmade in fine, biscuit porcelain by Studio Pieter Stockmans in Ghent. Lust intends to develop the series further by making a range of lamps.
Brussels Design September – the annual flagship event for design enthusiasts.