Mathieu Lehanneur blends design, technology and art.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
One of the artists who participated in The Sublime Nature of Being, an immersive, multi-sensory group exhibition of works by contemporary artists curated and produced by Ambika Hinduja Macker (Jan. 23 — Feb. 27) at the Summer Garden of ICD Brookfield Place, Dubai, was Mathieu Lehanneur, French designer and artist.
Macker is herself an artist, and founder and creative director of art and design firm Impeccable Imagination; the exhibition was held in collaboration with ICD Brookfield Place. Born in 1974, Lehanneur is at the forefront of the international design scene. He has a multi-disciplinary approach to creativity: his projects stretch the realms of product design and object to architecture, craft, and technology. He crosses borders by combining design, science, technology, and art in projects that aim to achieve maximum welfare for human beings. His designs are inspired by nature – and push the limits of design by exploring new technologies.
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Air, water, light, and sound are among his favourite materials to create his science-inspired humanistic projects.
He considers human beings as complex structures who need, along with chairs, the air to breathe, sustainable food, good health, and the prospect of living better lives. His works can be found in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris; Les Arts Decoratifs in Paris; and at the Design Museum Gent.
He has designed interiors for Saint-Hilaire Church in Melle, France; for Chateau Borely in Marseille, France; for the Hopital des Diaconesses in Paris, France; and for the Cafe ArtScience in Boston – which shows the wide variety of his practice. At the forefront of international design, he is one of the designers of his generation to be able to embrace many fields of creation. Ranked among the 100 World top designers and influencers by Wallpaper and Surface magazines and described as the “champion of intellectual agility in the field of contemporary design ” by Paola Antonelli, MoMA-NY Director, Lehanneur has won numerous awards such as the Grand Prix de la Creation de la Ville de Paris and the Designer of the Year at Maison&Objet. He designs his answers for Gulf Today
Why do you think design should be holistic?
Humanity is holistic; so the question for me since the beginning has never been to choose a specific department in art to apply my work in, but rather to focus on being inside the body of my client and try to propose something that provides emotions, sentiments and souvenirs to my clients. I like to offer my client the possibility to describe what they feel about the piece in a nice way.
How does technology inform your work?
I use technology as a tool in my line of work. It is at the same level as marble or ceramic, but of course I use it in a different way. The pieces that were displayed at “The Sublime Nature of Being” exhibit used technology; but for visitors, it is not obvious that a marble piece requires a technology process to be created. For me, the most important thing is the final result.
Can you be called a multi-disciplinary artist?
Probably yes, I am a creator.
How do you relate yourself to the great classical sculptors and contemporary designers?
The main link is living in this era, today: so everything I make is contemporary by definition. Of course I am aware of what other creators are working on worldwide, but it is not my main inspiration. On the other hand, raw and natural materials, as well as books, guide me to my work.
Who and what are your inspirations?
Richard Birkminsterfiler was an American artist, architect, engineer, philosopher, thinker and inventor; his profile inspires me because he proposed and invented things that are different – and that make a difference in the world.
What parts do elements such as air, water and light play in your works?
These elements are key to my work. For example, one of the pieces that was displayed in “The Sublime Nature of Being” exhibit was called “liquid marble”. The idea behind it is recreating a piece from the ocean; so water was key. Light also played a role in turning this static piece to a moving piece.
From cars to chateaus and from hospitals to cafes, your involvement in design and decoration is vast. How does your oeuvre handle these varied mediums?
You’re right – and for me the main question is what my client is asking for. When you meet a priest who asks you to create a piece for an 11th century church, you cannot say no – same with the head of a hospital commissioning you to create an art piece. Again, I do not like to set my line of work and limit myself. The ask of a potential client is what interests me and what I base my decision on. If I feel I can offer something new, I will accept the project.
How can design and the arts play a role in the development of a better world?
It’s a paradox. Making an art or design piece can seem useless; but as human beings, we need things that go beyond the functional and reveal some kind of emotions and sentiments. This is where art plays a big role.