SHIZUKA SASAKI – teamLab

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Japanese collective teamLab's immersive installations and artworks blend technology and creativity bringing together ‘ultratechnologists’ from diverse digital fields. The Fizz chatted to director Shizuka Sasaki at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, host to exhibition ‘Learn & Play! teamLab Future Park’.

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What’s your design philosophy?
Throughout our artworks and spatial design we try to make other people’s existence a positive thing. With conventional art, like the Mona Lisa, you want to look at it by yourself and not be distracted by others, but in our artworks there’s always interaction. If someone’s touching it, or sharing the space, it changes around that person and makes the artwork beautiful. So those viewing it appreciate other people’s existence. We create a positive relationship between yourself and others.

How does the collective work?
It was started by our founder Toshiyuki Inoko with five people in 2001, but has grown to over 500. Most of us are permanent, but some work on a contract basis. I’m a catalyst for teamLab. A catalyst creates a team of people to make each project happen, drawn from different technologies. Sometimes we need mathematicians, sometimes special sensor engineers, or artists, designers or architects. So we gather specific teams and liaise through meetings.

TOP: teamLab director and catalyst Shizuka Sasaki. ABOVE: Interactive digital installations at Sydney exhibition 'Learn & Play! teamLab Future Park' at Ultimo's Powerhouse Museum, including 'Light Ball Orchestra', 'Hopscotch for Geniuses' and 'Graffiti Nature – Mountains and Valleys'

What inspired your touring show ‘Learn & Play! teamLab Future Park’?
We began as an IT company. When one of the co-founder's sons was little, he noticed kids were just playing by themselves on phones and tablets, not playing together. He was shocked, so took away the child’s phone. But then he thought, ‘I’m in the IT industry, why am I taking technology away from my son? Technology should be able to bring people in, and let them play together or be more creative with each other.’ So that’s how we started developing the idea of bringing kids together to interact and play through technology in this Future Park. Even though we use technology it’s not just for one person, it’s for a lot of people. Everything is interactive, so if you’re playing by yourself – as with our coloured 'Light Ball Orchestra' exhibit – it’s fun, but if there were more people it would be a lot more fun. There would be more sounds, interactions and colour, so it gets better.

In Future Park's 'Sketch Town' zone kids can scan their coloured-in drawings into a digital artwork and then move them around by touch. How does it work?
There are around 12 different things you can draw and put into 'Sketch Town'’s world. You can touch the pictures and move them around, and they will jump and dance. There’s a limitation to the artwork’s screen size, so once around 300 to 350 drawings appear on it, then your spaceship, say, or truck will start fading away, but they will last for a few hours.

ABOVE: Powerhouse Museum exhibition 'Learn & Play! teamLab Future Park' in Sydney, including interactive digital installations 'Sketch Town', 'Sketch People' and 'A Table where Little People Live'

How important is interactivity to your work?
Everything is interactive. We don’t want to create artworks that you just watch. We want people to be involved and actually to affect the artwork itself.

Why did you choose art as your medium?
It could have been any medium because our aim is to change people’s perspective. We wanted to create something that isn’t just a Japanese thing, but a universal concept. That’s why art is good to work with.

Where do you get inspiration?
We get inspiration from everything – art and architecture – but often from nature. We always blur the boundaries between science and art, and realistic things and virtual things. When you look at flowers, distant mountains or waves you think, ‘why are they so beautiful?’ We break down why they’re beautiful and create something from that concept.

ABOVE: Recent 'NGV Triennial' installation 'Moving Creates Vortices and Vortices Create Movement' for Melbourne's National Gallery of Victoria. Visitors' movement is tracked by sensors that communicate via computer with projectors, creating a visual vortex expressed as a continuum of digital particles

Tell us about your recent digital installation for Melbourne’s ‘NGV Triennial’ exhibition?
The 'NGV Triennial' piece was a vortex on the floor, which responds to people’s movement like water. The faster the person moves, the stronger the force is applied in that direction. If a person is not moving, no flow will occur.

Australian gallery Martin Browne Contemporary also shows your digital artworks. Tell us more…
Our artworks keep changing, synchronising with nature, weather or real places. We can’t give away exactly how we connect them to the outside world, but there's something like a GPS always talking to the system, and we create an algorithm. Perhaps the weather outside will affect the weather inside the artwork, or alters the behaviour of its inhabitants. Artworks change with the seasons or time of day. One client bought this ever-changing floral artwork, went on holiday and came back to find the flowers were totally different. They called us to say they liked it better before, but we told them they would have to wait a year to see their favourite July flower again!

ABOVE: Two teamLab digital artworks exhibited by Sydney gallery Martin Browne Contemporary, including six-channel 'Four Seasons, a 1000 Years, Terraced Rice Fields – Tashibunosho' and endless 9-channel work 'Continuous Life and Death at the Now of Eternity'

What’s your social media of choice?
We have Facebook, Twitter and our favourite Instagram. Instagram works well for us because our artwork is very photogenic, so people like taking pictures at our exhibitions and posting them online.

Where’s on your travel wish list?
We do a lot of projects all over the world, so I travel all the time. After this I go to China. We get inspiration from everywhere, with shows like ‘Future Park’ touring from Asia to the US and Europe.

What’s next for teamLab?
On 21 June we have a huge permanent exhibition coming up called 'teamLab Borderless' about transcending borders. It’s at the MORI Building in Odaiba, Tokyo, and involves 520 computers, 470 projectors, 40 artworks and 10,000 square metres of three-dimensional space. We’re exploring the idea of connecting all the artworks together so there will be no borders between them. Everything is linked in some way, so for instance those little guys you’re looking at will go out of the artwork and go into another world or appear over there. We also have a Paris exhibition starting in May called ‘teamLab Au-delà des limites’.

ABOVE: Upcoming temporary Paris show 'teamLab Au-delà des limites'; and permanent Tokyo exhibition 'teamLab Borderless', in which 'artworks leave rooms and move, artworks communicate with other artworks, and artworks fuse with other artworks', breaking down the boundaries between art, the viewer and other people

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‘Learn & Play! teamLab Future Park presented by Toyota’ is at the Powerhouse Museum, 500 Harris Street, Ultimo, Sydney, Australia, until 30 April 2018. It will also open at Yang Art Museum, 3rd Floor, Building 14, Solana, No 6 Chaoyang Park Road, Chaoyang, Beijing, China from 25 June to 7 October 2018.

Catch ‘teamLab Au-delà des limites’ at Grande Halle de La Villette, Parc de la Villette, 211 Avenue Jean Jaurès, Paris, France, from 15 May to 9 September 2018. ‘Epson teamLab Borderless’ will be on show permanently at Mori Building Digital Art Museum at Palette Town, Odaiba, 1-3-8 Aomi, Koto-ku, Tokyo, Japan, from 21 June 2018. See teamLab exhibitions for other current and future installations.

MARTYN THOMPSON

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Australian photographer Martyn Thompson is well known for his enigmatic imagery which has appeared in style bibles including Elle Decoration, Vogue and Architectural Digest. Now a native New Yorker, he has turned his eye to designing esoteric fabrics for the home. We go behind the lens to see what makes him tick...

BY DEE IVA

What prompted you to start designing textiles?
I’ve always loved textiles. Thirty years ago I was painting fabrics, making them into clothes and selling them in a small shop in Sydney. I began taking pictures of them and my photography career was born out of that – it took over. So coming back to fabric isn't a total stretch. I had started exploring new ways to reproduce my photos and discovered the digitised jacquard loom. Although a little suspicious of the first results I soon fell in love – there’s a depth to the tapestry-like weave that speaks to the tactility I search for in my photos. I realised the potential for interior fabrics and began to develop the idea.

Tell us about your new 'Rock Pool' textile collection.
I was in Limeni on the Mani Peninsula of Greece on an editorial assignment. Standing at the end of a jetty staring at the rocks in the water below, I saw all these colours – amazing – like a painter's palette – dancing on the surface. I took a small cart load of photos and these became the basis for the 'Rock Pool' collection.

ABOVE AND ABOVE RIGHT: Martyn Thompson in his Manhattan studio
BELOW FROM TOP: Thompson's watery 'Rock Pool' design can be used to upholster walls as well as furniture. The chair is covered in a mix of 'Whitewash' and 'Painted Galaxy'; A range of Thompson's earlier designs including 'The Accidental Expressionist' and 'Melting' are used to cover these cushions; 'Ripple' from the 'Rock Pool' collection covers the wall, the small sofa is upholstered in 'Blotch' from the 'Accidental Expressionist' collection

Does your photography inform your designs?
It’s very literally an extension of it. Each of the fabrics begins as one of my photographs before we edit and develop the image into a repeat pattern. My photography has always been very much about a certain quality of light and a particular muted colour palette. Happily these qualities translate beautifully to the jacquard loom process.

ABOVE: The 'Green Buterflie' scarf from Martyn Thompson's first accessories collection is printed on silk and uses designs from his interiors collections

We hear you were quite the club kid in the Eighties…
Ahhh... that was the early Eighties. A lifestyle choice that didn't bode well for my university studies! I always loved dressing up and was a real show off on the dance floor. I started making my clothes when I was quite young and was totally enamoured of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren. I didn't really think anything could get better than New Romanticism, but when their Buffalo Girls collection came out I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. It’s still my fave fashion moment ever. I guess music was my first great love – and I admired performers like Siouxsie and the Banshees as much for how they looked as for their sound – though the music was fabulous too of course.

That period was an incredibly creative time, is there anyone who particularly inspired you?
There was a general spirit of getting on with stuff to just do it. For me, a young queer kid, this felt like a time outside of boundaries and prejudice. Boy George, Marilyn, Jimmy Somerville and other 'out' singers were a total inspiration. Homosexuality was still illegal where I grew up and I think these people gave me permission to exist.

What are your favourite design hotspots in the Big Apple?
The Future Perfect design store (below left) – David Alhadeff is a total advocate of what is new and is helping many new designers build their careers. I’ve always really admired Paula Rubinstein for her quirky take on vintage objects and textiles. Other favourites are Federico de Vera on Crosby Street – he has a really beautiful vision – and I love the new Oliver Gustav shop on Howard Street (below right).

Do you have any design heroes?
Yes plenty… to name a few, Gio Ponti, Mariano Fortuny, Vivienne Westwood, Susie Cooper.

Where's on your travel wish list and why?
Well, I'm crazy about Iceland. I love that there is still a sense of the unexplored and the impenetrable. It’s so ancient looking and can get really remote, really fast and you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere with no one – not a sensation that's commonly achieved where I live in Manhattan!

What's your social media of choice?
I have an Instagram account but I'm disappointed that it has become such a commercial medium. I think that Tumblr can be really beautiful, especially the 'pin up' board format – that's my favourite.
martynthompsonstudio.com 

Pictures: Lauren Coleman (The Future Perfect)

MICHAEL ANASTASSIADES

Cypriot-born, London-based designer Michael Anastassiades is known for his pared back aesthetic and sculptural, one-of-a-kind lighting. A former Royal College of Art and Imperial College graduate, his perfectly poised designs use simple geometric shapes that complement both contemporary interiors and elegant homes

BY CLAIRE BINGHAM

How would you describe your work and philosophy?
‘Reduced’ is how I would sum it up. I don’t like to use the word 'minimal' because I feel that is misunderstood in terms of design. What I’m looking for is simplicity. I like to remove excess information from the visual language of the object to distill it to a point where actually, what I decide to give it, is the bare minimum. I believe this is really important in communicating the idea behind an object.

Tell us about your new products for Italian lighting firm Flos. 
The ideas were different for each one. In the case of 'Captain Flint', it was about trying to make a light that works in a doorway. On the one hand, it can be a reading light next to a sofa, but by simply changing the direction you have an uplighter for a more ambient atmosphere, or you can even direct the spot against a wall or specific object. On a practical level, it is a light that works in all sorts of scenarios. The inspiration plays on the idea of balance. The cone balances on its tip, on a stick, which is an extension of the collection of the 'IC' light.

ABOVE: Michael Anastassiades with his 'String Light Cone Head' pendant lights for Flos, inspired by electricity pylon power lines
ABOVE RIGHT AND BELOW: 'Captain Flint' can be rotated through 360 degrees. It comes in two finishes – brushed brass with a white Carrara marble base and anthracite with a black Marquinia marble base

What is your starting point?
In the case of my latest collection for Flos, I addressed the notion of balance. There is a sense of anxiety, almost. How is it possible? How can a cone balance on a stick? The practicalities of a design are subconscious. They are always there and you have to solve them at the end of the day.

What draws you to lighting?
Lighting for me is fascinating because it is special. It is not the same as any other product design. It has to work in two different scenarios: when it is on and when it is off, and this duality is very challenging. When it is off, you view it as an object and the space it occupies but suddenly, when the bulb is switched on, then it exists in an entirely different way. The way it interacts with other objects, in terms of casting shadows changes everything. Of course, light is a very beautiful and very poetic medium and that is what attracted me to it in the first place.

BELOW: Also for Flos, Anastassiades' spherical 'Extra' table lamp plays with balance, and comes in bronze, graphite and silver finishes; The 'Copycat' light is composed of two connecting spheres. The large illuminated globe is contrasted by a smaller one in polished aluminium, electroplated 24 carat gold, black nickel or copper

Which of your lighting designs are your favourites?
I live with very few objects in my home and so the things that I choose are carefully selected. In terms of my own designs, I like living with them but it tends to work on a rotational basis because I don’t have space for all of them. There are different reasons why I like something. Sometimes it is sentimental in the sense that it could be one of my early pieces of work. Sometimes it could be a reminder of an experience that I’ve had.

ABOVE: Another balancing act is pulled off by the 'IC' standard and table lamps in chrome and brushed brass

Beyond lighting, is there any new design territory you would like to tackle?
I am already working on furniture. I have a partnership with US brand Herman Miller that allows me to explore that world, however, lighting is really my passion, my preference. The collaboration with Flos is important. We started in 2011 and the first product launch was in 2013.

Who are your design heroes?
I have many. I wouldn’t say they were heroes. It’s too much load to bear, I think, to be a hero. For me, I like different designers in the same way that I like a lot of artists' work. I am more inspired by art than I am by design.

Photo by HIT1912/iStock / Getty Images

Where’s on your travel wish list?
Unfortunately, I only go to places where work takes me. There is very little time to explore other parts. Cyprus and Greece are special destinations when it comes to choosing places to rest but they don’t excite me like Tokyo, for example, which I find fascinating. I’ve been many times but I always like to go back.

What’s your social media of choice?
I am quite distant from it. I do use Facebook, and Instagram I find interesting, but all these things consume you in a way that I don’t really like. I like to get inspiration from observation instead. They are good tools to keep in touch with people but that is the best use I can think of for them.
michaelanastassiades.com  studiomichaelanastassiades.com

Pictures: Frank Huelsboemer, Giuseppe Brancato, Getty Images

BARBER & OSGERBY

British duo Barber & Osgerby – aka Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby – has bagged awards for their sleekly simple, contemporary furniture, lighting and accessories. Consummate designers, they're as capable of creating a stunning chair or innovative shower control as masterminding a radical installation for London's V&A Museum or hotel or fashion store interiors via their architectural practice Universal Design Studio. We caught up with Jay for the lowdown...

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What’s your design philosophy?
Beauty through simplicity.

What’s it like working together? And what qualities do you each bring to the table?
Our design process is like a long conversation, sometimes there are just the two of us, but mostly in our busy studio there are several who participate. Ideas go back and forth between us all and soon the sketching starts and then the model-making. We are extremely lucky that we work so well together, and that we have such an amazing team with us. We obviously have our own characteristics, likes and dislikes, but we think that the combined design output of two, is greater and smarter that the sum of the two halves!

ABOVE: Edward Barber (left) and Jay Osgerby of Barber & Osgerby
ABOVE RIGHT: 'Hotaru' paper lanterns manufactured by Ozeki
BELOW FROM TOP: Barber & Osgerby's Nordic winter-inspired 'Triptych' installation for 2016's Stockholm Furniture Fair, where they were Guests of Honour; it featured their recent furniture and lighting designs, including the 'Pilot' chair for Knoll, 2015, in tactile cowhide

You’ve designed furniture, lighting, tableware, installations, a coin and even the London Olympic torch! Is there any new territory you’d like to tackle?
We’d like to design a bridge, the perfect combination of form and function, engineering and sculpture. 

Where do you get inspiration?
We get inspiration from many sources – art, sculpture, museums – but mostly through travel. When we travel we find the local flea markets, where we can discover the relics of a culture and understand how different countries and societies have created objects to do the same job but in different ways. 

BELOW FROM TOP: 'Olio' tableware for Royal Doulton, 2015, in glazed and unglazed ceramic, wood and stainless steel. 'Tobi-Ishi' occasional table for B&B Italia, 2012, in smoke-blue lacquer, white Carrara and black Marquina marble

Who are your design heroes, or which era, building or interior do you find inspiring?
There are too many to mention… and we’re always finding new ones.

What’s currently exciting you in design or style?
The return of craft, and people rediscovering how important it is for all of us to make something. We are tired of the commoditisation of all objects. We see the return of an appreciation of the small producers and the craft that goes into making. 

BELOW FROM TOP: Past designs for Vitra and Knoll, including the 'Tip Ton' chair for Vitra, 2011, and the 'Pilot' chair for Knoll, 2015

Which recent projects are you excited about?
We are always most excited about the projects that we are working on at the moment – and most of them are secret, of course. We are looking forward to launching our new tiles for Italian brand Mutina in Milan this April. The range is called ‘Puzzle’, and it’s a huge collection of abstract, colourful ceramic tiles. 

What else will you be launching at this year’s Milan Furniture Fair or beyond?
New work for Swiss brand Vitra and US firm Knoll, currently under wraps; many other new things are on the horizon. 

ABOVE FROM TOP: 'Collector Cabinets' for Glas Italia, 2015; 'Axor One' shower control for Axor, 2015

Where’s on your travel wish list and why?
I am writing this from Singapore, and in one hour I have a 13-hour flight home – so my travel wish list is to stay in London!

What’s your social media of choice and why?
I prefer to avoid social media, and if I could I would throw away my phone…
barberosgerby.com

GREG NATALE

Award-winning Australian interior designer Greg Natale has made his name with glamorous schemes strong on geometric print, pattern, colour and trad-modern luxe. Based in Sydney, he's branched out to design covetable homewares, from graphic rugs to gorgeous furniture, accessories, wallpapers and tiles. He's also published his first book, 'The Tailored Interior', to share his tips, inspirations and projects. We meet the dandy decorator...

BY SOPHIE DAVIES

What’s your design philosophy?
I'm focused on creating bold, sophisticated interiors that are tightly edited and tailored with a distinct touch of glamour. Every piece has a place and shares a relationship with other pieces in a space.

How would you describe your style?
It comes down to my love of layering. I’m a big fan of interiors that are full and sumptuous, rich in textures and finishes, with a careful layering of pieces – whether the space is minimalist or maximalist.

What drew you to luxurious, glamorous interiors?
I’ve always been inspired by the late English designer David Hicks – the way he worked with bold colours and patterns, creating elegant environments, was mesmerising. Danish designer Verner Panton's layered, repeated patterns also influenced my aesthetic. 

ABOVE: Interior designer Greg Natale in the living room of an Edwardian house he restored in Sydney, backdropped by Fornasetti plates
ABOVE RIGHT: The UK/US edition of Natale's book 'The Tailored Interior', with a foreword by Jonathan Adler and photos by Anson Smart
BELOW: Natale's zingy dining room for Leichhardt House, Sydney, where the linear 'Comback' chairs by Patricia Urquiola for Kartell echo the lights

What are your tips for using print and pattern in the home?
I do love bold geometrics – they can really lift a space, bringing a layer of intricate interest to a large, open interior via a rug, carpet or wallpaper. I also love detailed curves, which can perfectly balance the angles in a house. It’s in bringing balance and contrast where print and pattern can really come into their own, ensuring a design is cohesive and dynamic. I recommend using neutral tones on bigger furniture such as sofas, then introducing accent colours, pattern and print via more easily changeable cushions, throws and rugs.

ABOVE: Natale's 'Diagonal' striped wallpaper for this small, one-bed Fitzroy Apartment in Melbourne, increases the sense of space (source it from Porter's Paints)

What does a tailored interior mean to you?
My work is essentially a bespoke business – it's all about tailoring my design skills to a client’s desires in order to capture their passions and style. I also curate every piece and finish so it holds its own special place in the mix.

Where do you get inspiration?
I'm interested by the worlds of fashion and art, which celebrate the glamorous and the luxe (I love the sexy, sophisticated tailoring of US fashion designer Tom Ford and Halston's style from the Sixties and Seventies). A lot of my inspiration also comes from the everyday things I’ve observed when exploring new cities. Some of my rug design patterns were inspired by the details on gates, buildings, even manholes. 

What inspired your latest collection for Sydney firm Designer Rugs?
‘New Modern’ is very contemporary and represents a natural step for me following my earlier, more classically inclined ‘New Regency’ collection for Designer Rugs. Each rug is named after a city – for example, ‘Rio’ was inspired by the city’s striking mosaic pavements, while ‘Los Angeles’ features deco elements that are such a part of LA designs. Others represent a mood or theme – so ‘Memphis’ gives a nod to the post-modern design movement. 

BELOW FROM LEFT: Graphic pattern rules in Natale's 'Miami', 'Rio' and 'Memphis' rugs from the 'New Modern' collection for Designer Rugs

ABOVE: Rome's Colosseum and the sexy, streamlined, Seventies glamour of New York's Studio 54 inspired Natale's armchair and coffee tables for US interiors brand Worlds Away, part of a 10-piece collection

Which of your collaborations are you most proud of?
Early collaborators Designer Rugs and Porter’s Paints both have a special place because they were the first brands to allow me to diversify. Designing furniture collections for Stylecraft and Worlds Away has given me the chance to create key contemporary pieces that embrace a little vintage glamour, while my Italian-inspired 'Pavimento' cement tiles for Teranova took a different approach to flooring. My new cushion range for One Duck Two suits both contemporary and classic spaces.

What’s exciting you in design or style?
I’m really excited to see a renewed interest in the post-modernist Italian design group Memphis, with its vivid colours, geometrics and graphics. It's one of my favourite design movements.

What about colour trends?
I’m loving the chic, sophisticated neutral appeal of navy blue. At the more dramatic end of the spectrum, I find the current trend for rich colours such as malachite and lapis lazuli breathtaking. And I’ve always been a fan of metallics, particularly brass.

Who are your design heroes? `
Alongside David Hicks, Verner Panton and Memphis, I love the work of modernist architects such as American Paul Rudolph and the late Australian legend Harry Seidler (I'm fortunate to live in an apartment in one of Seidler’s buildings today). I’ve always been a fan of the Californian Case Study Houses of the Fifties and Sixties, commissioned by US Arts & Architecture magazine. In my own industry, I count Jonathan Adler and Kelly Wearstler among my contemporary inspirations.

ABOVE: Greg Natale's cushions for One Duck Two span printed linen and embroidery in greens, blues, greys, and black and white. From left: 'Manhattan', 'Trellis', 'Monte Carlo', 'South Beach' and 'Malachite'

Where’s on your travel wish list?`
Saint-Tropez is number one. The sun, the setting, the glamour – what’s not to love?

What’s your social media of choice?
Pinterest – it’s such a great source of inspiration, in terms of absorbing that of others and sharing your own, and it allows you to create personal mood boards, particularly useful in my profession.

What have you been up to recently?
We had the US and UK launches for my book The Tailored Interior in September, and launched my first cushion collection with Australia's One Duck Two (available online at David Jones and in select stores). We also moved offices, setting up a new, more generous space in Surry Hills, with an appealing edge of glamour! In future, I intend to focus more on product, work towards another book, and ensure that the brand becomes more global in approach and reach.
gregnatale.com

'The Tailored Interior' by Greg Natale (Hardie Grant Books, £24.40, US$55, AU$69.95) launched in the UK and US in September 2015 and in Australia in November 2014. Snap it up online. Photography by Anson Smart.