La Selva: RGB Black Series

February 1, 2012

Carnovsky’s concept for a new ‘skin’ in an East London venue goes far beyond a change of wallpaper to explore the dynamic potential of RGB colour principles in spatial design.

The latest instalment by Milanese design studio, Carnovsky, is another foray by the practice into the dynamic world of RGB colour principles – vividly represented in a shifting array of spectral-printed wallpaper. This time located in the apt venue of Dream Bags Jaguar Shoes, a bar-come-exhibition space in London’s Shoreditch, the work is drawing significant attention to this small and otherwise understated venue.

Carnovsky (a pairing of designers Francesco Rugi and Silvia Quintanilla) has entitled the project La Selva: RGB Black Series, and it is effectively a series of full-height wall and ceiling installations. La Selva, Spanish for ‘jungle’, is an elaborate cacophony of flora and fauna – a collection of finely wrought images of oneiric beasts and vegetation plucked from ancient books and engravings.

Following its debut in Milan last year, and a more recent RGB series at the Johanssen Gallery in Berlin earlier in 2011, this ‘jungle’ themed iteration of RGB takes its cue from the early 20th century paintings of Henri Rousseau. As both Rugi and Quintanilla explain, the RGB work is underpinned by a desire to look for something with more weight – not just a trend. “RGB can be used at an architectural scale,” says Rugi. “People can actually be in this kind of environment that changes… and for us it was not just about making regular wallpaper. We wanted to create something like a [contemporary] fresco.”

Instead of being surrounded by angels and religious icons, the Jaguar Shoes space is encompassed by overscaled, overlapping images of the RGB surfaces, which are printed with inks in red, green, blue and yellow. By day they appear as a multicoloured swathe of green, yellow, orange, blue, purple and blackish forms that wash across the walls; by night, the dense and captivating work transforms in mood and composition according to three filters – red, green and blue – that reveal a bestiary of sense and nonsense that stomps, crouches and weaves around the rooms. Each colour has certain attributes – the red forms especially clear images, for example, compared to the more dream-like effect of the blue filter – and the compositions are a response to this change in mood. Gigantic monkeys shriek out from a blue haze, while big game animals pose in red, and lush vegetation blooms in green.

For Carnovsky, each venue offers the opportunity to try new ideas with the visually arresting printed medium. Since its Milanese debut as a one-off, non-repetitive wallpaper that was digitally produced on a pale ground, RGB has been developed by Rugi and Quintanilla to include an RGB Black series, which was exhibited for the first time in London at Dream Bags Jaguar Shoes. Both the ‘day’ and ‘night’ – or white and black – series function in the same fundamental way, exploiting the physics of electromagnetic vibrations as light waves are apprehended and manipulated. For the Black series, the colours are inverted, so the background is black instead of white and through the coloured filters, images appear in negative. Unlike a projection, the room simply appears as a colourfully printed wall until the lights go down and filters flick on. According to Quintanilla, the simplicity of this effect “makes a kind of magic the first time you see it”. It is this appeal that has drawn praise and curiosity in equal measure for Carnovsky’s work – people watch from across the street, transfixed by the effect of the filter changes, while those inside are equally distracted by the changing, saturated visual environment.

The making of such magic, however, is not as effortless as it may appear. Images of natural history illustrations and engravings are imagined as “a metamorphosis of the world”. Images of animals, creatures and nature are collected by Rugi and Quintanilla during weeks spent poring over mostly 16th and 18th century original sources. The art of combining the different scales and natural forms to create a contemporary collage that balances between what Rugi calls a “real and fantastical world” also requires patience. “If we went for something that looked nice with the filters on, but ugly in daylight, it wouldn’t work at all,” he says. “That’s why we take a long time to make each piece.” Precedents such as Max Ernst’s surrealist collages or the films of Werner Herzog are apparent in the disjointed and sometimes eerily orientated fragments.

Though the spatial drama of RGB at an architectural scale is most dynamic and immersive, the basic premise has been applied to smaller scaled pieces, such as high quality lithographic art prints and iPhone covers. The latter seem especially apposite for an idea that Carnovsky considers as “a kind of [applied] skin”. Watch out for the next RGB development that looks set to push the use of inks even further: Carnovsky will show a new series of work at Milan in 2012.

  • Cynthia February 6th, 2012 8:00 pm

    This blows my mind! What a concept! WOW to the superlative! Francesco Rugi and Silvia Quintanilla, you have brought a very special skill to the world and have made it a better, more captivating and stunningly expressive place.

  • lumpsculpturestudio February 8th, 2012 9:34 pm

    A beautiful assault on our eyes. MAGIC.

Leave a Reply

Keep up-to-date with our bi-weekly newsletter

You’ll get

  • News, insights and features from the interior design and architecture community
  • Coverage on the latest projects, products and people
  • Events and job updates

Join now!

Sign up to the newsletter