Rays of light fill up the foyer of Claridge’s Hotel in London, where I am meeting Flavie Audi, the French-Lebanese artist who is recognised widely for her glass creations. After graduating from the Architectural Association in 2010, Audi followed her passion for glassmaking to Murano, once the main place of production for glass in Europe, and four years later completed a ceramics and glass MA at the Royal College of Arts in London. After numerous successful exhibitions, Audi has just opened her first solo show at Tristan Hoare gallery in Fitzroy Square, one of the city’s most picturesque places. Sitting below a Chihuly chandelier (made of more than 800 individually hand-blown glass pieces), I speak to the artist about life, design and glassmaking.
Video: Landscapes of Mass Replication by Flavie Audi and Samantha Lee. Courtesy of Flavie Audi
Can you tell me about the House of Today showcase in Beirut you are participating in?
House of Today is a non-profit organisation with a mission to identify, showcase, nurture, and connect emerging Lebanese designers. It was set up in 2012 and is led by Cherine Magrabi Tayeb. It connects design talent with established designers, design patrons, and collectors to create new possibilities and to instigate an open exchange of ideas around design.
What is your involvement with House of Today?
I have just completed a series of tables for them, called “Stellar Flux”. They refer to the mysterious origin of our genesis and the plasmic quality of life––a puddle of water contained the data of our existence. In my work, on a fragment of stone lies a body of solidified resin that echoes this primordial soup, the source of inception for all organisms.
Was there anything particularly challenging about this design experience?
Every project is a challenge. In this case, the process of sandwiching a mould in order to bind the resin with the marble during the pouring of the final layer of resin was challenging.
What was your key takeaway?
I really love the unexpected moments of beauty that I had not anticipated, which would become a part of this work. The geometry of the resin, namely its rounded shape, means it behaves like a lens. The result is this mirrored illusion on the resin surface itself.
Your first London solo show “Cell-(estial)” just finished. What did you showcase?
I used photography, sculptures, installations, and video (in collaboration with Samantha Lee), in order to investigate the points at which the natural and artificial worlds meet, and to question the definition of the real. In “Cell-(estial)”, the visitor would walk from one world to the next in two gallery spaces; one room representing the man-made and the virtual; the other embodying the natural, chaotic state.
Can you describe your design process for this exhibition?
The work in glass is very much driven by the energy in the material and the potential of glass to express life and engage with light. The process always begins with a lot of experimentations. It is like playing with various ingredients and inventing recipes/techniques or sometimes revisiting and twisting existing ones. The beginning of a project starts with a strong intuition about an idea––I investigate material behaviours, tools and technologies to execute and materialise my ideas. An idea can be very sudden, appearing from an unconscious link in the mind, or it can happen very slowly and gradually. It is about listening attentively to my intuition, and hearing when ideas arrive.
Read Vogue’s interview with Kuwaiti artist Najd Taher.
Why are you interested in glassmaking?
Embracing discovery and accidents is what I really like about glass. People usually think of glass as a flat, calm and sometimes even emotionless material, so I deconstruct the normal conventions of the process and create my own recipe to work with the materials. I try to see opportunities in the manipulation of materials where sensuality and a sense of life can be expressed.
Are there any trends that you see emerging in glassblowing?
I don’t see a trend in the making of glass, but maybe there is the beginning of a revival of the sense of beauty in art, a return to the question of beauty.
What’s next for you?
My next upcoming projects include furniture, a jewelry collaboration, and digital video work. I will keep pushing techniques and bringing craft and new technologies together to manipulate glass and other materials to create moments of beauty and dazzled encounters.
Flavie Audi’s Cell-estial solo show is at the Tristan Hoare Gallery, 6 Fitzroy Square, London, W1T 5HJ from November 16th – 9th January 2017. Flavie Audi’s works are also exhibited at the House of Today group show in Beirut, Lebanon from 6th December – 9th January 2017.
Read the Vogue Arabia guide to becoming serious art collector.