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Pierre Charpin: Amidst the Vases Opens at Museum of Design and Applied Arts
Chaise empilable. Prototype en acier et fibre de verre Bourse du Fiacre, 1993. Photo : Pierre Antoine.
LAUSANNE.- For its tenth “carte blanche” exhibition dedicated to an unusual creative figure the mudac is presenting a vast panorama of creations by Pierre Charpin from different periods. In a previously unseen installation, the designer shows a selection of objects interreacting with short animation films produced especially for the exhibition.

Pierre Charpin does not start out from a specific function in order to create a new form; nor does he seek to improve existing forms. Instead he prefers to conceive a form by reducing an object to its essential qualities.

Raised by a weaver mother (a maker of tapestries on the high-warp loom) and a painter and sculptor father, Pierre Charpin was destined for an artistic career and studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Bourges. Graduating in 1984, he was influenced by the theories of conceptual and minimal art. In the early 1990s he embarked upon the “more concrete path of the design project rather than that of aesthetic research” and nowadays devotes the main part of his activities to the design of furniture and objects.

His discovery of the Memphis1) movement had a significant effect on the designer: “…Memphis was a trigger for me since it opened up many possibilities and great linguistic and expressive freedom. Memphis no longer thought of objects purely on the level of structure but also in terms of surface, colour, decorative design; it was an approach more sensual than structural. Memphis thought of the object as a sign, a totem, which was new. I inherited something of all that, but at the same time my approach is very different in the sense that Memphis operated by adding, which produced a certain aesthetic saturation, whereas I myself operate by subtracting in order to produce synthetic signs; I try to produce an aesthetics of articulation rather than an aesthetics of saturation, and that makes an enormous difference.”

Simplification is a distinctive feature of his vocabulary. “Simplifying to permit a greater degree of articulation between objects, simplifying to seek multiple layouts.” He is able to reduce an object to its most radical, its most economic typology.

Despite this apparent rigour, by means of recourse to rounded shapes these creations emanate an impression of sensuality, of vitality, created by the choice of materials and by the use of large flat areas of bright – sometimes even fluorescent – colours.

Research plays a particularly important role in Pierre Charpin’s creative process. The walls of his studio are covered with drawings, abstract cut-out pieces of papers that will define the very nature of the object.

Contrary to the majority of other designers, he does not start out from an ideal drawing that will lead to the object but allows himself to be guided by an idea, by recourse to a series. In the end, it is this great freedom of approach that defines the very form of the object. “To draw objects is to present possibilities.”

Pierre Charpin leaves it to the purchaser to choose the functions of an object, having absolutely no desire to dictate a pre-established model of use. He thinks of his pieces of furniture as elements which are articulated in the space where he will insert them and “tries to reveal the object as a presence even before appreciating the qualities of use which it is supposed to suggest”.





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