Over the past few years, the artworks of French designer Ronan Bouroullec have become a distinctive mark of his oeuvre, going hand in hand with his industrial design work, produced in collaboration with his brother, Erwan. The designs and artworks created by Bouroullec share some neat similarities: the colour palettes, ranging from subdued to bold and always delivered with a harmonious balance, the shapes and silhouettes, always defined by sinuous lines and a perfect equilibrium. 

A new body of work, presented by Galerie Kreo in London (until 4 January 2022) sees the designer exploring a new medium, with a collection of 23 clay bas-reliefs. Galerie Kreo’s London space (debuted in September 2021 with a collection of modular bookcase designs by Marc Newson) has been transformed for the occasion from a furniture gallery into an art gallery, demonstrating the designer’s ability to work between different creative worlds. 

23 bas-reliefs by Ronan Bouroullec

A portrait of Ronan Bouroullec working on a ceramic bas-relief in a dark workshop space
Photo courtesy Studio Bouroullec

The 23 works on display offer a sublime glimpse into Bouroullec’s sensibility for colour and composition. A limited palette of dark green, grey and brown is discreetly punctuated by apparitions of yellow, pink and bright red. 

The works, the designer stresses, are abstract, each tableau consisting of two or three irregularly shaped pieces of bevelled-edged glazed clay arranged on simple boards and frames. Seemingly unimportant details, such as the luminous anodised aluminium background (in light blue, grey and bright green hues) help bring the compositions to life. 

‘It’s possible, the works say, that there is nothing so lovely as a bevelled edge: the way they taper is like a caress. The way they dissolve onto a background feels digital and also deeply analogue. These effects are both visual and tactile, as in: we see them and we want to touch them,’ notes writer and poet Josh Ascherman, who was asked to pen a brief text accompanying the exhibition. 

Three ceramic bas-reliefs by Ronan Bouroullec on display at Galerie Kreo

The creation of each piece is defined by three processes. First, the carving of the clay forms by hand, a multisensory moment of creation that Bouroullec likens to skiing on fresh snow, both for its tactile and aural effect. Second, the glazing, leaving cracks, bubbles and tool marks on the shapes, an imperfect effect that reflects the handmade process by the designer. And finally, the compositions of form and colour into these expressive multidimensional works. 

‘The works seem to have a primal resonance,’ concludes Ascherman. ‘They short-circuit our hard-wired symbolic understanding, whisper of other landscapes. They remind us that mass and atmosphere are forms of pleasure, and ask us to be pleased.’ §

Abstract bas-relief by Ronan Bouroullec mounted on a green background and frame made of anodyzed aluminium
Ceramic bas-relief by Ronan Bouroullec featuring two thin lines on light grey aluminium background
A ceramic bas-relief featuring green and beige abstract forms on light blue aluminium background
A ceramic bas-relief featuring green and red abstract forms on light blue aluminium background