A lexicon of colour shades for mixing. A large size and its submultiples.
Available in six encoded colours, a background and two complementary surface finishes – matt and glossy – the “Cromatica” collection brings out a sensitive and original reflection in the domination of pure colour. The large porcelain stoneware glazed sheets are fields where the chromatic quotient in pastel shades, softly mixed together and rich in variations of intensity, comes through in a multiplication of apparently infinite shades. In addition to being kept in its large size, the sheet can also be cut down to smaller sizes, making it an open and versatile collection.
CRITICAL TEXT BY DOMITILLA DARDI: “ANALOGIC, DIGITAL, CHROMATIC”.
Studio Formafantasma base their work in the design world on a strong vocation for research. Simone Farresin and Andrea Trimarchi view every project as an opportunity for study and the acquisition of new knowledge, and their love of speculation establishes a dialectic rapport with the situations offered by each new client. Whether it involves a material, a type or a production method, the first phase of their design process is the mapping of what the specific case places at their disposal. With Cedit, an analysis of the company’s past and present was central to the inputs. Inevitably, since “Looking back to look forward” has been the design duo’s mission statement for years. In this case, in particular, the company’s history was a real treasure trove, a fine blend of memory and technology: on the one hand, the excellence of production technologies now extended with the added potential arising from the engineering of large-sized ceramic tiles, and on the other a wealth of experience build up with great designers of the past, from Zanuso to Noorda, through to Ettore Sottsass. Andrea and Simone decided to focus on Sottsass - who started designing for Cedit back in the late Seventies - and made an in-depth study of one of the colour charts he developed towards the end of the Nineties. A spread of colours which gave its name to the “41 Colors” collection, included in the catalogue of the period as a real alphabet for what has proved to be a lasting design language. Colour was much more than just a compulsory step in the dialogue between designer and producer, since Sottsass had already discovered the power of the mystery intrinsic to this universe of invention.
With Cedit the master-designer, a long-established lover of ceramics and their crafted unpredictability, found a way of transferring his personal feeling for colour to a wide audience, through industrial mass production. And this assumption is another factor Formafantasma have inherited, interpreting it today with new, even more efficient technical resources just as capable of expressing the secrets of colour. «The concept of colour “in isolation” - Sottsass explained in a 1992 text - classified colour, Pantone, as they call it now, “scientific” colour, is something I still refuse to accept. (...) Colours, the idea of colour, are always intangible, they slip slowly away like words, that run through your fingers, like poetry, which you can never keep hold of, like a good story.» And Formafantasma seem to have chosen that distinction between colour “in isolation” and “intangible” yet ever-present colour as the basis of their work. However, their approach draws on their unique vocation for research and the technical resources of the third millennium. «This work - they explain to us - is a reflection on colour, and above all on how to bring the multiplicity of shades typical of a hand-crafted piece into a large-scale project.» The designers look at large, monochrome slabs and turn to the engineers for details of their secrets, their processing stages, the phases in their production. They appreciate that the colour of ceramic material, its ineffable secret, can still be present in the series and large tile sizes in which Cedit leads the way. They understand that this is, in itself, an expressive power which does not need channelling into forms, motifs and signs. But above all, they treat the surface as a large canvas on which they spread pure colour, which tends to be uniform but in fact is never really a “scientific”, totally monochrome hue: it is not a Pantone. And this is the source of the fundamental insight, which only children of the transition from the analogue to the digital era could achieve, the reward for those who draw on the past to look to the future.
The designers cut the slab into lots of regular pieces, not necessarily of the same size. They restore its identity as a “tile”, a familiar name with something ancient about it, but which stands for a module, a unit of measurement, a building block. There is nothing nostalgic about this - on the contrary, the vision is completely new, and the portions of slab created can be reassembled with no restrictions, breaking down the unity of the whole and reviving its essence starting from its structure. As the cards in the pack are shuffled, what emerges is not a figure or motif but the representation of colour itself and its physical nature. It is live matter, born from the meeting of vibrating forces, the mixing of ever-varying percentages of the basic ingredients. And Formafantasma present us with the corpuscular, fragmented essence of these small frames of space and crystallised time, which reveal the code and formula of their composition. So Cromatica is a collection made up of six colours which actually have an infinite number of declinations and compositional possibilities. It is a “discrete” combination in the mathematical sense of the term, capable of generating multiple, variable subsets. At the same time, each slab can be used in its entirety, leaving the impression of analogue continuity unchanged. But what really amazes is the comparison and dialogue between the two approaches: a stroke of genius, laying clear the mysterious appeal the artificial reproduction of colour has always held for mankind. Because, as Sottsass said, «colours are language, a powerful, magical, intangible, flexible, continuous material, in which existence is made manifest, the existence that lives in time and space».
Andrea Trimarchi (Bolzano, 1983) and Simone Farresin (Malo, 1980), two Italian designers based in Amsterdam, are the founders of the Formafantasma studio. Their interest in product design arose and grew as they attended the MasterDegree course at the Design Academy in Eindhoven, where they graduated in July 2009. Since then, Formafantasma has created a coherent body of work characterized by the experimental investigation of matter, exploring topics such as the relationship between tradition and local identity, the critical approach to sustainability, and the meaning of objects as devices for cultural relations. Perceiving their design mission as the activation of connections between the practical and theoretical aspects of crafts and industry, they are interested in giving form and consistency to the relationships that link objects to their users.