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Australian design gets risky in Milan

Australian design gets risky in Milan


If contemporary Australian design is all about risk taking, the pieces exhibited at Local Milan No 3 during this year’s Milan Design Week seemed to sum it up, writes Susan Muldowney.

It’s near impossible to paint Australian design with a single definition and a visit to the Local Milan No 3 exhibition (presented by Local Design) at this year’s Milan Design Week made this even more evident.

The show’s curator, Emma Elizabeth, believes each design shared a ‘risk taking’ aesthetic, pushing the boundaries of form and colour and looking beyond the classic timber material.

It’s not that Australian designers at Milan eschewed timber altogether – they just used it in different ways.

Sagitine, the Sydney brand known for taking utilitarian storage items to luxurious new heights, reimagined its Santiago Luxe storage stand with walnut boxes framed by brass electroplated stainless steel and topped with leather. Sagitine also partnered with Andrew Simpson of Vert Design to extend its shoe system into a tall stack with a gradation of colour. The idea was to complement the peeling yellow walls of a room in the Milanese palazzo that housed the Local Milan No 3 exhibition. “I knew we had the yellow room, so we wanted to do something different with the colours to make it appear like a piece of art,” explains Sagitine’s founder, Tina Clark.

Local Milan 3 exhibiton

Tina Clark Sagitine / Andrew Simpson Vert Design

Fred Gamin also presented a new take on timber. Crafted from sleek ebonised European oak, his Plane table is series of dramatic, voluptuous U-turns and appears more as functional art than modest coffee table.

The Plane table was among the curvaceous forms at this year’s Local Milan No 3. Jonathan Zawada’s shapely Chair, a collaboration between VELA Life and Kvadrat Maharam, was more an art installation than furniture design, while Tom Skeehan’s NAVE chair featured rounded steel arms and plump leather upholstery.

The tubular U-shaped brass vases of Melbourne-based artist and metal smith Anna Varendorff grew to waist-height for the exhibition. “I normally tell people to clean the vases with a bit of tomato sauce, but a friend told me you’d need a whole bottle of sauce to clean these ones,” she says.

Anna Varendorff, Sculptures of Infinite Arrangement

Anna Varendorff, Sculptures of Infinite Arrangement

Varendorff worked with a fabricator to create the vases; however, her brass, wall-hung Sculptures of Infinite Arrangement, also featured in the exhibition, were hand-crafted in her Melbourne studio. “They are all created by hand so you can see the various nuances and imperfections,” she explains.

Melbourne-based lighting designer Volker Haug Studio exhibited its Oddments lights that marked a departure from the linear forms of the studio’s classic Step & Kick series. The Oddment rings can be hung individually or at staggered heights. “We decided not to show the Step & Kick pendant because we wanted something different,” explains Abde Nouamani, industrial designer with Volker Haug. “We were asked to respond to the space, but it was challenging to hang the lights as it’s an old building and the ceiling is crumbling a bit. We got there in the end.”

Volker Haug Studio exhibited its Oddments collection

Volker Haug Studio exhibited its Oddments collection

Colour was also on bold display with Daniel Emma’s second interpretation of its Bling Bling Dynasty collection, which included vibrant furniture, design objects and a rug shaped like a turtle.

The Bloom cabinet, a collaboration between industrial designer Adam Goodrum and marquetry artisan Arthur Seigneur, was another stand-out display of colour and craftsmanship, with doors made of more than 1400 sections of brightly hand-tinted French rye straw.

This year’s Local Milan No 3 exhibition was a collection of pieces that refused to be classified. It was Australian design at its indefinable best.


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