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mitate by Studio Wieki Somers

Galerie Kreo on the Paris Left Bank is the venue for Wieki Somers' latest exhibition entitled mitate

By Katie Dominy /asdf 20-06-2013

mitate is a collection of seven extremely tall standard lamps that line up in a row down the central aisle of Galerie Kreo, made just a little taller still by the wooden plinth they are set upon. The title refers to the Japanese aesthetic concept  'mitate' to 'look again' in order to give new meaning to an object; a practice that sits comfortably with the Wieki Somers design philosophy. 

Somers visited Japan several times in 2011 and 2012 and from research and trips to understand local crafts, the idea for the collection took root. mitate traditionally also involve an element of metaphor, especially looking back in history. Somers has taken this inspiration for the lamps, for example the Jin (Fabric Lamp) is inspired by the 16th Century Samurai flags with their highly developed clan markings and ritual design and construction. Somers notes: “We wanted to create a contemporary equivalent of sixteenth-century Samurai flags translated into ‘light poles’ – a family of lamps.” 

Each of the seven lamps has a further 'mitate' element, in depicting one of the seven principles of thebushido samurai code of honour: Gi, the right decision; Yuu, bravery; Jin, compassion; Rei, the right action; Makoto, truth; Meiyo, honor; Chuugi, devotion.

We asked Somers about the Japanese influences.
“Over recent years we have visited Japan several times and in 2011 and 2012 we relocated our studio to Tokyo for a few months. We came to Japan with the plan to explore the significance of the rituals of our time and give them a new form and meaning. The Japanese culture and its traditions and customs always fascinated us. We recognise many of these aspects in our own working method.

“We bore witness to this during our stay. Everything in Japan is done with precision and attention for craftsmanship, even if it is of only a temporary nature. This is evidently able to exist within an overpowering consumer society.  The craftsmanship can be seen in how people prepare and serve food, in product design, the architecture, in everything. In contrast to the Netherlands, where many crafts have been lost, they are nurtured in Japan as part of their culture. 

“Given our love of craftsmanship, we studied various crafts. We attended a bamboo workshop; we visited workplaces for lacquerwork; we visited a workshop in the north of Japan which is famous for the old cedar trees that are turned into bento boxes and other products.. We haven't used these specific crafts for our new mitate collection, but we have combined some other crafts with high tech materials.

Can you tell us more about the materials used?

“The materials for each lamp have been chosen with care. Whether reflective or mirroring, absorbing or translucent, each material creates a distinct lighting style. For example we used a velvety-soft surface for Chuugi (Black Hole Lamp) which does not reflect light; it seems to absorb it like a bottomless black hole, the texture generates a mysterious depth. 

“We selected some ordinary materials, like reflection foil that is normally used for traffic signs. The Samurai were masters in upgrading common materials by using special finishings or techniques. For two other lamps we used Japanese materials, such as washi paper and a metallic fabric with a car lacquer finishing; if you put the light on, the fabric becomes transparent and illuminates a decorative element, a pull switch. 

The light Meiyo (Mesh Lamp) is captured by a shade of folded copper mesh; it is floating above the pole, held by a copper-plated construction with hand knotted work.  And the shade for Yuu (Mirror Lamp) is made of a cone-shaped sandwich of veneer and glass fibre; the inside of the shade is covered in fine gold foil. The shape absorbs and reflects at the same time. The LED holder is connected to the pole by magnets. 

“All the lamps have poles made of tubes that are attached with cord binding in a decorative and functional way. We designed two different kind of bases in which the poles are ‘pinned’. The first is a base in tulip wood, resembling a traditional tokonoma altar, creating space for the organization of different objects; the second is made from polyester concrete with its edges carefully sliced, revealing the texture of the stone.”

mitate by Studio Wieki Somers runs June 7 until September 21 at Galerie Kreo, 31, rue Dauphine75006 Paris

1 -  Wieki Somers
2 – Makoto ©Fabrice Gousset – Courtesy Galerie kreo
3 &10 -Jin ©Fabrice Gousset – Courtesy Galerie kreo
4 Gi ©Fabrice Gousset – Courtesy Galerie kreo
5 & 8-Chuugi ©Fabrice Gousset – Courtesy Galerie kreo
6 -Rei ©Sylvie Chan Liat – Courtesy Galerie kreo
7 -Meiyo ©Studio Wieki Somers – Courtesy Galerie kreo
9 -Yuu ©Fabrice Gousset – Courtesy Galerie kreo

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