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Designer Guillermo Santomá Explores Aluminium with RIMOWA.
Spanish designer Guillermo Santomá's believes that "to create is to destroy" and on the occasion of Milan Design Week 2019, the Barcelona-based artist has teamed up with RIMOWA and contemporary art magazine and creative studio KALEIDOSCOPE to create a multi-platform project that explores RIMOWA’s iconic aluminium.
Merging his sense of colour and play with a sensibility towards industrial materials and processes, Santomá creates surreal objects and spaces suspended between art and function.
His new installation at Spazio Maiocchi, entitled “GAS” after Ed Ruscha’s iconic series Twentysix Gasoline Stations, was inspired by the idea of a conceptual gas station and is cantered on a fully functioning car customized with RIMOWA aluminium and turned into a light and sound sculpture.
Before the aluminium was fully set into place, we caught up with Santomá to take a deeper dive into his vision and process.
Where were you born and raised, and how did your origins influence your artistic practice ?
I was born and raised in Barcelona, never surrounded by an artistic environment, but accompanied by a sensibility about painting and sculpture and above all nature. I remember at fifteen years of age wanting to start some kind of artistic practice, although I ended up studying engineering and architecture, reading has always accompanied me, bringing together everything I do.
Generally, how does architecture and the urban environment make its way into your creations?
Our society lives in the city, after the Industrial Revolution, people moved to the city creating this artificial nature. The original natural terrain, already abandoned, is like melancholy influencing our ways of creating but without being popular. As it was the landscape at the time the fascination that generates the urban crosses borders, focusing much more on the relationships that are established, right now without looking at the past, technology erased memories.
What is your relationship to travel, and how do you find that inhabiting new places and meeting new communities informs your practice ?
In the past they thought that cars would fly, I do not think that will ever happen, even planes will cease to exist, look at the Concorde.
Just as we went from the countryside to the city, we will leave the city to live in a continuous journey, I am interested in the idea of the contemporary nomad, able to move around the world without getting up from the chair of his house.
There are more possibilities to get to know new communities and influences without moving than going out to look for them, clearly, we could always differentiate between commercial and personal travel.
You live and work in your native city of Barcelona. Here, you’ve designed your own house out of a 1920 building and it’s a widely published and acclaimed architecture. Can you tell us about the process of building this dream habitat ?
Just as the dream cannot be controlled, there is something in the construction that is like that, even if it seems that you can give it shape it escapes you, but one thing takes you to another.
The most interesting is how times come together, when you manage to do something that fits in time, just as the original house is an easy current to be circumscribed in time, Noucentisme, the new one, without being able to frame it with a name is faithful to our time.
I understand the house as a piece, a performative construction that by doing it yourself allows you to take risks that without the presence of 24 hours in the work could not be taken.
How has the city of Barcelona, with its architectural heritage, informed your practice ?
I have always lived in a Coderch building, the entrance to the building and its garage marked me unconsciously, when one day you discover Coderch's work well you understand everything you have learned.
My teacher is Miralles, there is nothing that has moved me more than his buildings, I like that now half in ruins are disintegrating and mixing with the new urban ecosystem. I think he's one of the greats, I understand him closer to Gaudí than to anyone else, his works closer to science fiction interest me as thought.
On the other hand, your studio is located in a warehouse in an industrial area of Barcelona. Here, you work with your right-hand Jordi and a small team. What can you tell us about this work environment and your process of working ?
The process is very talked about, we like to talk about the movies we see, we share Instagram post, listen to music and read the books that interest us.
The work interests us to a certain extent, it is clear that it is the translation of that thought, but it cannot be done the other way around.
We are not afraid to do things, sooner or later you find solutions for everything.
Your work is situated in a peculiar liminal zone at the intersection of art and design – how do you feel about both disciplines, and where does functionality stand with the objects you create ?
Obviously, there is a very clear influence of these two disciplines, but not particularly, within this new nature, you cannot escape the influences.
I am interested in thinking as a discipline, as the only thing capable of generating a language, beyond the profession or practice that one exercises, the important thing is to know the history in order to be part of the dialogue.
Which kind of materials do you like using most in your work, and why ?
I understand my work as a material, not the other way around, materiality interests me to get to tell what I want, I do not want to repeat materials or processes.
The approach to the material comes within a dialogue, an evolution from piece to piece full of evolutions and contradictions.
Can you describe the new installation you’re creating by integrating RIMOWA aluminium and components ? How were you inspired by this design icon ?
As a lover of design, I am fascinated by the industries that are capable of developing a product, that in many cases is as close to an artistic practice as any other.
Riding a factory to develop a product is the dream.
I like to work with industrialized materials, use them for something that they are not used to but respecting their form.
You cannot ask for something that you cannot give, but if you take it to the limit you learn things that even the material itself cannot imagine.
The centrepiece of your installation is a fully functioning, yet sculptural car made of RIMOWA material. What fascinates you about custom car culture and the idea of speed ?
[The speed image is the same as the image of a crashed vehicle.
I think of Ballard's Crash.
The image always provokes something that can happen, the tuning interests me the ability to transform, that kind of aesthetic competition that is much more personal than buying a Ferrari, although changing a car costs money is more personal than buying a car, I would prefer to design a Ferrari that can drive it.
Do you have any heroes or mentors ?
I do not remember any mentor, I'm interested in finding out how people think, because it comes to what it does, that makes you change quickly from one place to another, because you’re thinking is also moving.
I like more any fictional character than those of reality, or a few who create fiction with their reality.
What is your vision for the future of creativity ?
It will always remain the same, ability to create language so that relationships are different, creating new scenarios and letting you understand that there are different ways of living.
To learn more about Guillermo Santomá’s installation for RIMOWA x Kaleidoscope’s collaboration at Milan Design Week check out our instagram. This interview is part of our collaboration with Milanese contemporary art and visual culture magazine Kaleidoscope that celebrates the materiality of RIMOWA’s signature grooved aluminium.