EXTRA VALEXTRA INTERVIEW: MARTINO GAMPER - A WHOLESOME APPROACH TO DESIGN
MARTINO GAMPER: A WHOLESOME APPROACH
Martino Gamper is today one of the most celebrated designers worldwide. His approach to design could be synthesized in a special humanistic attitude towards projects, as he likes to say “design is a state of mind” - also the title of his exhibition presented in 2015 at the Serpentine Gallery in London in collaboration with Pinacoteca Agnelli, in Turin. His own peculiar approach brings him to look at his surrounding realm via a special and uncommon filter and enables him to transform what is there in new, original, unpredictable objects. Before studying sculpture in Vienna, at the Academy of Fine Arts under the tutoring of Michelangelo Pistoletto, the Italian born creative (Merano, 1971) took a two years sabbatical tour around the world, he spent some time at Matteo Thun’s side in Milan, and afterwards decided that it was the moment to move to London to attend the Royal College of Arts to study with Ron Arad, then finally settling down his own studio in town.
His distinctiveness resides in masterly combining modernity and tradition through different kind of languages, which are totally reloaded through personal codes, truly unique on the international platform of design. Why? As they are led by intimate research more than checkouts or commissions. You could wonder if this is how artists do. Not at all, don’t ask him if he considers himself an artist or a designer; he is a designer pursuing his own ideas, but yes, possibly a designer with a strong artistic twistable to create his own universe - as artists usually do. He is happy to be acknowledged accordingly, a designer. Nevertheless, he sees a relationship between art and design even if it has been some time now that the differentiation between the lower (design) and the higher art form (arts) is much narrower. Gamper is not so interested in speculation and distinction between the two, he is keener to separate good, interesting and engaging works and the rest, which he calls boring. To say that Martino Gamper’s goal resides in producing functional objects, pieces of furniture that people can enjoy, experience and live with them even if they’re edging towards art.
See our story "Brera Meets Brera", a stroll around Milan's district with Martino Gamper
Leaving aside for a moment his audacious and unconventional talent - which is not a detail - Martino Gamper is most of all a designer of today, a designer from our times fully concerned about what is going on even if to me he embodies the exact spirit of Romanticism, some sort of special Sturm und Drang’s flavor and energy, maybe also because of his South Tyrolean origins, the Italian region surrounded by beautiful mountains. A landscape that has accompanied him during his teenage, such as the strong one that it’s hard to leave behind. The designer likes to be fully involved in his projects, he enjoys to create with his hands and work side by side with artisans, hands on. His experience in a cabinet making workshop, when he was only 14 years old, persuaded him with the idea that to give life to objects with your own work (and sweat!) is the ultimate pleasure of being a creative person. He needs physical involvement in the process, he needs to see how his sensitivity can originate into something that you can actually touch and feel. His way to skillfully combine different kinds of languages puts him in the position of embodying different roles. A curator himself, Gamper is also a successful teacher, with a parterre of former students who became some of the hottest designers of the international scene today and never avoid to mention his tutoring. When teaching, he has always strongly and vigorously pushed his classes to generate, fabricate, develop things, to struggle to make ventures real and not to leave ideas on paper, but try and challenge the magic of factual creation. Drawing on paper, with a computer or better designing “live” directly in 3D by his hands on the piece makes Martino Gamper’s creative process open and generous, meaning he constantly learns while working substantially when experiencing this fascinating phase of the production in the first person. It is actually during this very phase that he gets more and more inspiration and projects gets shaped out. As one of his most popular shows from 2007 confirmed, A 100 chairs in 100 Days (this exhibition traveled to several institutions worldwide) and, as somebody who was born surrounded by uncontaminated Nature could feel, materials are holy, they need to be preserved as they need to endure a long life also, and most of all, to preserve our planet health – never more than this is actual and urgent today. In this collection composed of 100 singular and diverse chairs Gamper has assembled and put together different parts of second-hand ones (the chair is considered as the most exciting piece of furniture to design, as it is made to be in close contact with our body) to create some brand new and unpredictable seats, where you can clearly read the dissimilar provenience, style, and shape. He avoids throwing away things, not only to preserve sustainability and in respect of the limited resources of Earth, which anyway needs to get better soon, but also as a personal way to contribute to this crucial, collective mission we all should be involved in.
EV: Most important quality for a designer?
MG: The quality of observation and curiosity.
EV: How would you describe your own way?
MG: My own way is very much related to the idea of an evolutionary process; you start with an idea, be it small or big, and then trough drawing, making and trying out to explore and develop into something valuable and new.
EV: What is your personal idea of aesthetics and how important is the identity of a piece of furniture for you?
MG: Aesthetics are part of a formal and functional symbiosis; plain aesthetics are superficial and boring. The stronger the relationship between aesthetics, form, function and idea the stronger the identity of the furniture. I try to give each of my pieces of furniture a distinct, individual identity.
EV: You are interested in natural materials…
MG: It’s less of a question about natural vs synthetic materials, but more about what material feels right to use in a certain context. I have no limitation when it comes to materials. I come from wood but like to try all kind of materials; at the moment, I’m obsessed with Linoleum. The important aspect for me is that the material needs to age well.
EV: Did technology change or influence your design?
MG: To a certain degree, it’s great to have access to digital technology, but you still have to have good ideas to start with, no technology will be able to replace the need to have ideas.
EV: Are you a collector, and if so, of what?
MG: I collect chairs and books, chairs mostly to work on. And books, mostly architecture and design, to get a sense of the past and present.
EV: Is there a favorite object you could not live without?
EV: Among the international architects and designers, also looking to the past, is there one that you particularly look up to? I would like to know who are the people who have inspired you.
MG: I think I had the luck of having many maestros over the years, starting from my apprenticeship in the mountains, to the professors during my studies, like Michelangelo Pistoletto, Matteo Thun, Enzo Mari, Ron Arad, and all my students.
EV: As a designer, do you have an impossible dream which you would like to fulfill tomorrow?
MG: To find a solution to deal with the mountains of plastic waste in our world.
EV: A short definition of yourself.
MG: Passionate, spontaneous and creative.
EV: Best time to work on a project?
MG: There is not a particular one, of course, it depends on what you do. But after lunch, any work seems a bit difficult.
EV: What is the meaning of traveling to you?
MG: Travelling is about changing one’s perspective and rhythm, seeing new things and new interactions with new people.
EV: Your last thought or ritual before falling asleep?
MG: A ritual: NOT looking at my phone! Last thought, how thankful and lucky I was to experience the past day.
EV: If it could be possible back in time, what would you like to become?
MG: A would have loved to become a musician.
EV: Can you briefly describe what life you are leading?
MG: A creatively stimulated one. I m curious and lucky.
EV: When it comes about commissions and clients, do you usually establish some precise canon?
MG: The most important thing is to have a dialogue with the client, and to create new possibilities for yourself and the client. Each project is a new chance to create something amazing, but only if both sides are committed, otherwise the result will be mediocre. It is about growing ideas and thoughts together.
EV: Which were the inspiring elements for your collaboration with Valextra?
MG: The excellence of Valextra is to make beautiful and functional objects that last. The brand stands for creating something that is timeless, special and everyday useful. I use it any given day.
New Valextra Boutique in Beijing - Taikoo Li - project by Martino Gamper
Martino Gamper (b. 1971, Merano, Italy) lives and works in London. Starting as an apprentice with a furniture maker in Merano, Gamper went on to study sculpture under Michelangelo Pistoletto at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna. He completed a Masters in 2000 from the Royal College of Art, London, where he studied under Ron Arad. Working across design and art venues, Martino Gamper engages in a variety of projects from exhibition design, interior design, one-off commissions and the design of mass-produced products for the cutting edge of the international furniture industry. http://http://martinogamper.com/