Sushi and a bonsai plant. These are the metaphorical comparisons Nendo's founder Oki Sato makes of his studio's style of design. Design that can produce 100 pieces a year, and simultaneously work on 400 at the same time. Design that astonishes the rest of the industry, with its ability to maintain an impeccable level of purity and hurl out product after product. 'I place a lot of importance on the freshness of the ideas.' He reveals, in his comparison to sushi, 'I try to work quickly, shaping the fish before the heat of my own body is transferred over to it.'
It comes as no surprise that someone was soon going to suggest the idea of a retrospective for the Japanese inventor, but for such a young brand that formed just over ten years ago, it is still quite a feat. The show follows on from the year survey of the studio's work at Salone del Mobile in 2015, and the mesmerising triumph of this year’s the 'Light and Shadow' marble exhibition with Marsotto Edizioni in Milan. It is quite fitting that what comes next is a question of what is between these opposites, in-between the conveyer belt of products, in-between the personal and professional life of Oki Sato and Nendo design.
Housed in the Ron Arad-designed Design Museum Holon in Tel Aviv that just celebrated its fifth anniversary, ‘The Space in Between’ is pulled together by curator Maria Cristina Didero as an almost scientific investigation of the designer’s processes, imagination, shapes and materials, and how they all intrinsically connect. The exhibition opens with a new site-specific piece that brings together the wares of Glas Italia and Caesarstone, titled 'In the shade'. Located within the rusted steel ribs of the Holon's atrium, the contrasting sheets of material cajole with shade and lighting. This tactically introduces us to a running theme with the show's subtleties. ‘Japanese designers really try to look into light and shadow, rather than colours,’ Sato explains.
Following this is the mighty plethora of designs across two floors of the impressive edifice, kindly categorised by Didero into six divisions of 'Between': 'Textures', 'Objects', 'Relationships', 'Boundaries', 'Senses' and 'Processes.'
The research starts on the lower ground floor with an array of 12 unique Nendo chairs, each piece from a different category. Every seat shows his abstract, slightly fairy-tale like versions of an everyday product, from the ‘Fadeout’ chair that blends wood and glass to the ‘Diamond’ chair that looks more like an atomic structure than a chair.
The upper floor is host to the rest of the 74 designs, each arranged in bright white boxes, allowing the different forms to stand out. Here the show travels from the ‘Processes’ section, which highlights the studio's delicate side in the intricacy of the patchwork glass for Lasvit all the way to the ‘Objects’ section that contains the compact emergency aid kit for natural disasters 'MINIM+AID'.
This epic leap from one panache to another continues, whether its is a USB stick paper clip for Elecom that they created with Italian designer Luca Nichetto, or geometric chocolates for Maison&Objet Paris, their elegance is maintained. 'It is possible to find a balance between industry and poetry,' Sato explains, 'I call it the balance between the right brain and the left brain.'
Witnessing such masterpieces bound together, we are also invited into Sato's personal self, which is imbued in every piece. 'Design is part of my everyday life, like breathing or sleeping,' he tells Didero, 'I think that the day I begin to consider design as work will be my final day as a designer.’ We certainly hope that day never comes.