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Pierre Charpin is currently on a tear through French Europe. Since being named Designer of the Year at the Paris Furniture Fair in 2005, he has exhibited at the city's Museum of Decorative Arts, the Grand-Hornu in Belgium and the Mudac in Lausanne. In May he returned to the Grand-Hornu for a 20-year retrospective of his vibrantly coloured furnishings for Ligne Roset and Alessi, among others. And this month he launches Ignotus Nomen at Galerie Kreo, the St-Germain-des-Prés gallery that has backed him since 2005.
Yet this exhibit represents a sea change from the wildly vibrant statement pieces that made Charpin famous beyond the designerati who populate Design Miami and Basel. As he approaches 50, Charpin's work has taken on a more philosophical bent. The name of the new, limited-edition collection says it all: 'Ignotus Nomen', or the thing that remains unnamed. The statement is there, it's just up to you to define it.
Brilliant-white furnishings made from Krion, a type of Corian, are, at their core, straightforward. Until you factor in the anonymous black-resin figures that appear on the surface, shadowy forms to the pieces' austere functionality. Is that a vase propped up on the desk? A spinning top prone on the coffee table? A beaker poking through the bookshelf? The answers: no, no and no. Charpin himself describes them as 'receptors and not signifiers', enigmatic forms washed up on the shore. Indeed, like creatures from the sea they seem to rely on their host the longer you contemplate them.
But that's as far as he goes, daring you, the viewer, to take their meaning a step further. Otherwise they are simply statuary. And, frankly, that may be meaningful enough for some.