Marble and Magic: The Symbiotic Works of Emmanuel Babled
The contemporary design practice of Emmanuel Babled is a symbiosis between artisanal techniques and cutting-edge technology.
Babled embraces the precision of digital design processes, while remaining faithful to the vigor of centuries-old craft and the tactility of the hand-made object. Many designers may claim to combine traditional techniques with future-looking production, but a solid balance between new and old, between the accuracy of computerized renderings and the sensory qualities of pure material is difficult to maintain.
The word symbiosis is especially appropriate because Babled—French-born, Italian-trained, now Amsterdam-based—makes organic, biomorphic forms, often from high contrast materials. Take the “Osmosi” series: a collection of furniture and vases in which the colored Murano glass of the Venini Masters is embedded into blocks of Carrara marble from Testi Fratelli in Verona. Working alongside seven glassblowers in Northern Italy, Babled then 3D-scanned the forms so that the marble could be cut to seamlessly interact with them. He achieves a striking juxtaposition, as delicate glass, melted by fire in order to be shaped, is set in seemingly indestructible marble formed by the earth’s molten lava. In a recent interview, Babled explained: “The result is an atypical ‘aesthetic vibration,’ where the glass appears to have simply deleted marble. The materials perform together with a kind of spontaneity never seen before.” It looks almost as if the glass were blown directly into the stone.
The studio’s sophisticated understanding of place-specific production is further exemplified in the monolithic “Quark” coffee tables and “Etna” collection. The abstract modules in “Quark” consist of digitally rendered walnut, plexiglass, and marble, while the source substances of “Etna” are ceramic and lavastone from a Sicilian village in the shadow of the eponymous volcano.
The final synthesis of Babled’s work happens between artistic objects and industrial design. Babled produces through his own studio, and for prestigious manufacturers that have included the Milan-based Covo, the French crystal company Baccarat, and the German porcelain company Rosenthal. Creating both widely distributed designs and limited edition series, Babled’s pieces, at their most inventive, border on imaginative sculpture, to summon dreams of islands of glass.
Emmanuel Babled is on view at Galerie Yves Gastou, Paris, Mar. 12–Apr. 18, 2015.