Meet Ital­ian ‘fur­ni­ture sculp­tor’ Vin­cenzo de Cotiis

House and Leisure (South Africa) - - Contents - TEXT GARRETH VAN NIEKERK PHOTOGRAPHS SUP­PLIED

Time­less’, as an ad­jec­tive, is of­ten ca­su­ally thrown around in writ­ing about de­sign, but how else do you de­scribe the work of Ital­ian ar­chi­tect, fur­ni­ture de­signer and gal­lerist Vin­cenzo de Cotiis? His Mi­lan­based prac­tice com­bines old and new in pieces that re­de­fine the ‘time­less’ by care­fully craft­ing a new de­sign lan­guage that cel­e­brates ev­ery stage of a ma­te­rial’s life. ‘The ob­jects are a new icono­graphic and mor­pho­log­i­cal al­pha­bet com­posed of signs that take hold of the past, just as they do the fu­ture,’ says De Cotiis. In Septem­ber, he will open an ex­hi­bi­tion, En Plein Air (Out­doors), at Car­pen­ters Work­shop Gallery in Lon­don, where 20 ‘fur­ni­ture-sculp­tures’, all of which are hand­made by Ital­ian ar­ti­sans, will be dis­played in the same space that has show­cased work by greats such as Rick Owens, Yinka Shoni­bare and Stu­dio Job. The col­lec­tion of seat­ing, light­ing, ta­bles, cab­i­nets and book­shelves com­bines semi­precious stones, Mu­rano glass, re­cy­cled resin and cast brass to cel­e­brate the 19th-cen­tury art move­ment – also named Plein Air – that the show is named after. Plein Air painters, in­clud­ing im­pres­sion­ists such as Claude Monet, Pierre-Au­guste Renoir and Edgar De­gas, all took their stu­dio easels and can­vases out­doors, break­ing the academy’s stu­dio rules to cap­ture nat­u­ral light, shade, and colour. More mod­ern art move­ments also in­spired part of De Cotiis’ vi­sion. ‘[The En Plein Air ex­hi­bi­tion] is a man­i­festo of pure nat­u­ral­is­tic in­spi­ra­tion, a quin­tes­sence of ev­ery­thing that the move­ments of the early 20th cen­tury had es­tab­lished. The chro­mati­cism of the ma­te­ri­als de­rives from pointil­lism, while pre-Cu­bist ge­ome­tries and or­ganic ex­pres­sion­ist schemes al­ter­nate in per­pet­ual rhythm, de-struc­tur­ing the clas­si­cal canons [and] forg­ing them into the con­tem­po­rary world,’ he says. De Cotiis’ unique ap­proach to the de­sign process al­lows each project the space to de­velop, and be com­pleted, at its own pace. Rather than de­mand­ing a re­alised de­sign, he or­gan­i­cally ad­justs his orig­i­nal plans to evolve as they are made. ‘In re­al­ity, my pieces are never fin­ished,’ he says. ‘The ma­te­ri­als I work with change over time, re­act­ing to the at­mos­phere, and they con­tinue to evolve. But I love things that have suf­fered through time. Time cor­rodes. It makes ev­ery­thing dif­fer­ent. Any ma­te­rial, any ob­ject; I like it hav­ing been weath­ered by time.’

Ital­ian clas­si­cism per­me­ates the process as well, with a dis­tinctly fu­tur­is­tic glim­mer – much like Mi­lan, where De Cotiis is based. In the midst of all the iconic Ital­ian city’s cen­turies-old ar­chi­tec­ture and sculp­ture, bold con­tem­po­rary work springs for­ward with the same brave spirit as the old mas­ter­pieces they live along­side.

De Cotiis’ apart­ment, which he shares with his wife and busi­ness part­ner Clau­dia Rose, takes this blend of old and new into the do­mes­tic space, soft­en­ing the fu­tur­is­tic edges of his fur­ni­ture into some­thing sur­pris­ingly friendly and live­able. The cou­ple com­pletely over­hauled a sprawl­ing space in an 18th-cen­tury, late baroque build­ing where 200-yearold par­quet floors now form a back­drop for Vin­cenzo’s space-age cre­ations. Walls have been stripped of years of paint to re­veal their bare sur­faces – the per­fect bal­ance to the high shine of brass fit­tings by De Cotiis, as well as plush peach vel­vet loungers. Mar­ble gleams in the bath­room along­side trompe l’oeil mar­ble paint ef­fects on the walls, which were cre­ated by the orig­i­nal 18th-cen­tury own­ers.

‘True beauty is found in the parts you can­not see,’ says De Cotiis, and it’s through work like his that we get to ap­pre­ci­ate the parts we may have missed, or didn’t find the time to imag­ine. En Plein Air runs at Car­pen­ters Work­shop Gallery in Lon­don from 15 Septem­ber to 23 Novem­ber. car­pen­ter­swork­shop­

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