Christophe Penasse and Ana Milena Hernández of Valencia-based creative consultancy Masquespacio are well-known for their edgy design style. But ever since the launch of their new experimental studio, Mas Creations, the duo seem to nudge at norms even further, including through their presentation at this year’s Milan Design Week where the designers reflected upon an age-old boundary dispute. “Since we started our studio in 2010, we have been working on a wide range of interior and product design projects,” Christophe says. “Many times during this process,” he reflects, “we have been asking the question: what are the boundaries between art and design?”
The temporary exhibition in Milan, titled Forms and Textures, was created in response to the art-versus-design theme, taking the shape of a peach tulle-filled room with individual, brightly coloured objects positioned in its centre. At a glance, the compilation of sculptural pieces could represent a useable collection of furniture and lighting. “Although it’s unusual, and at first sight uncomfortable, [the] forms make it clear that we are not speaking about functional design,” Christophe says.
Masquespacio presents Forms and Textures during Milan Design Week
But the abstract pieces imagined by the designers adopt a series of shapes which the viewer instinctively applies functionality to: a ledge at sitting height becomes a chair, something shard-like with a luminaire attached resembles a lamp and a series of tall, jagged forms could easily be employed as a room divider. When the objects are reframed as “unusable forms”, however, they might be considered artworks, Christophe explains, “challenging the viewer to reflect about the boundaries between art and design”.
For the designers, the starting point of the collection was key to the conversation they were hoping to nurture. By resolving the works on paper before diving into digital development, as they usually would, the focus on the fine line that determines “if an object is an artwork or a design” was intensified. “In a further stage, we started to process the [hand-drawn] lines in 3D, creating different forms that stand on their own and at the same time connected together,” Christophe says, noting that contrast within each piece was achieved by using different textures, materials and colours.
In developing the forms through sketches and later turning them into 3D-printed objects, the designers contemplated how tradition and technology come together, and questioned the use of analog and digital techniques in design and art. “Is our work to be considered one hundred percent design work or could it be pronounced as a mix between both?” Christophe ponders, highlighting the search that he and Ana undertake to find a “specific sense” behind each concept, as well as the amount of detail and emotion they invest. “With this exhibition we wanted to continue the discussion about the boundaries between art and design. Who is responsible to define if an object is considered an artwork or just a design? Is functionality the only reason to justify an object as a design element instead as an artwork? Or is it the reflection behind the object that makes it an artistic interpretation?”
All questions that visitors to Milan Design Week have been left to contemplate until they return next year.
Although it’s unusual, and at first sight uncomfortable, [the] forms make it clear that we are not speaking about functional design.
Love the Forms and Textures exhibit in Milan by Masquespacio? Masquespacio also designed the Bun burger restaurant in Milan and in Turin. Catch up on more hospitality architecture and design and retail design, plus subscribe to receive the Daily Architecture News e-letter direct to your inbox.