The eclectic, crafted work of British-born, Hong Kong-based designer Michael Young marries engineered technology with a sculpted artistic flair. Producing everything from industrial watches to functional furniture for the likes of Coalesse and Lasvit, in addition to special collections for various galleries, his sense of experimentation is imbued with East-meets-West influences.
Curator Maria Cristina Didero is investigating that experimentation with a fine tooth comb, focusing on his works in aluminium in an immersive installation at the Centre d’innovation et de design at Grand-Hornu in Boussu, Belgium.
It's ever so exciting when the subject of a solo exhibition magnifies one section of a designer’s oeuvre. Yet what is created here is even more special. Didero and Young present an accidental history, demonstrating the evolution of one chemical material. We see Young's work deconstructed in the 12 installation stands that take over the neoclassical space. His rock-style 'Oxygen' chairs from 2015 are displayed in their original moulding; while the more simplistic, recycled aluminium 'Chair 4A' is shown dismantled with each part spread across the wall.
The versatile quality of the material is also shown hanging from the ceiling. Scaled up against a 2.2kg weight is Young's 'Lessthanfive' chair for Coalesse, emulating the extremely light-weight quality of the metallic element.
Both Didero and Young took Grand-Hornu’s architectural silhouette as a starting point for the show. ‘It has been a very interesting journey up to this show,’ Didero explains. ‘The first time we visited Grand-Hornu we were very inspired by the architecture of this building.’ To wit, the works are cleverly set out in an L shape that relates to the symbol of the element itself (AL).
Yet what makes the exhibit a uniquely alluring experience is one particular added extra. In extension to Young’s pieces, there is a section dedicated to other designers' works in aluminium. Titled ‘The Crypt’, Young and Didero have recognised contributions from the likes Jean Prouvé, Charles and Ray Eames, Barber & Osgerby and Ross Lovegrove to the world of aluminium design. ‘We made a selection based only on our personal taste,’ Didero adds of the humble approach and collection.
‘AL(L) Projects with Aluminum’ is a rare moment in the limelight for the metal – the experimental industrial development of which is so effectively shown through the contemporary designers that have made it possible. The show presents those included in what Didero describes as a ‘collective, choral experience with the material’.