For French artist-designer Hubert Le Gall, functionality and aesthetics are always entwined.
“Architects are, in a nutshell, sculptors. The modern architecture of Singapore is a massive source of inspiration,” says Le Gall, who was in Singapore last week to promote his first solo show in Asia.
He hints that the plants he saw at Gardens by the Bay, which he visited during his three days here, could well inform his future work. “Art has no borders,” he says, with a nod to the French impressionist masterpieces currently showcased at the National Gallery Singapore. Le Gall’s works, which are perhaps best known in Europe, famously combine functionality with playfulness. They are now on display at Mazel Galerie in Pacific Plaza.
Among the 75 pieces at the show are Placide, The Rabbit Chair (2012), made with synthetic fur, wool and varnished wood; and Commode Ferriere (2014), a chest of drawers obscured by bronze flowers gilded with gold leaf in a game of visual “hide and seek”. He created several orchid flower side tables for his Singapore show, signalling an evolution from the Warhol-inspired flower side tables he made two decades ago.
Le Gall says that his works, inspired by art and which often feature animal imagery, exist “for no reason except for the pleasure of creating”. But his work is “not pretentious”, he adds. “When I make a seat, it’s very important that you can sit on it,” Le Gall says. “What is fake, a lie, to me is the designer who makes a seat you can’t sit on.”
In fact, the interview was conducted on two of his Whale armchairs (2004). Inspiration for the chairs – fashioned from velvet and metal, with backs that look like fins – struck him while he was in bed in a hotel room in Montreal.
“I was looking for ideas. I turned on the TV. I looked at everything and thought: What if this were a chair? Then I saw a fish’s fin…”
His fusion of usefulness and whimsy is perhaps best exemplified by his Pinocchio Console (2012), a black table held together with a decorative “Pinocchio nose” of bronze gilded with gold leaf.