Francesco Balzano

Francesco Balzano

Sometimes he uses natural stone as a monolith, sometimes he combines it with noble metals or precious materials. Together we created a series of items by Van Den Weghe.
What makes the design duo Muller Van Severen so attractive? The fact that you can't label their designs as sculpture or furniture? 

My father is Italian, but I was born in Paris. I studied classic graphic arts and became fascinated with the sketches and paintings of old masters. Especially those from the Italian Renaissance. I also gradually developed an interest in classic and modern sculptors, whom I like to call masters of volume. Take Constantin Brancusi or Eduardo Chillida: artists operating in the area where art and architecture come together. Their monolithic concept of sculpturing fascinates me tremendously.

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Which is why you also studied architecture. Which architects do you personally admire?

I love architects who have a global vision of a project, who see it both large-scale and small-scale. People like Carlo Scarpa, Mies van der Rohe, Arne Jacobsen, or Alvar Aalto: architects that design with their erasers. They look to simplify and they use pure, raw materials. As an architect, I prefer to design at the object level. Like I do with buildings, I view objects as reflections on matter, light, proportions, form and craftsmanship.

Your objects simultaneously have something monumental, primitive and classic about them. How come?

When I’m designing, I always have the golden ratio in the back of my mind. It’s a mathematical, timeless approach to beauty. I don’t use the golden ratio as a mechanical trick, but it does make my designs intuitively timeless. It’s as if they might stem from classic antiquity as easily as from the present. In my mind there’s no distinction between these two time periods.

What’s the starting point for your different collections of furniture objects?

I use very diverse starting points when drawing collection objects. They do tend to be two-dimensional or linked to my roots in the graphic arts. My M collection, for instance, originated in a painting of a fictional house made by Japanese artist Minoru Numata. The pieces of furniture I designed would go perfectly with that non-existent house. The architecture of cities such as Florence or Venice is also a direct source of inspiration. When I walk around there, any stone or building can lead me to design a new piece of furniture. Iconic Casa Malaparte in Capri led to the marble Curzio loose-change tray. During my whole childhood we would travel to Capri. Every summer we would pass by the mythical cliff house of writer-director Curzio Malaparte. It’s an artists’ residence now, the place where so many famous artists once stayed. To me personally, this house almost embodies the essence of architecture. The roof, part of which is also a staircase, I translated into the sculptural Curzio vide-poche. An homage to Malaparte’s house, which was immortalised in Jean-Luc Godard’s film Le Mépris.

Why are many of your objects made in solid natural stone?

I love stone because it lets you sculpt it. It’s a material that is directly connected with sculpture. You can’t really say that about plastic, can you? Sometimes I use natural stone as a monolith, sometimes I combine it with noble metals or precious materials. Natural stone is primitive and brutal. Ideal for the kind of work I want to create: timeless objects that encourage contemplation. They do have their functionality, but they go further than that; they are instruments for the art of living, beyond fashion and trends. They communicate with space but also with the past.

Pieter Vermeersch

What he does with natural stone is unseen. His paintings give it an extra dimension that is just beautiful. This calls for an interview with this artist of the stone age.
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