Studio Swine captures the essence of New York through plasma, fog and more in solo show
With a reputation for creating ethereal and sensorial work, Studio Swine’s new undertakings are highly anticipated to say the least. The British duo – made up of Alexander Groves and Azusa Murakami – has most recently enjoyed a six-month stint as New Yorkers, having been invited by Mini’s design incubation space in Brooklyn, A/D/O to be designers in residence.
On 17 January, the fruits of that experience are being unveiled in the form of a solo exhibition at A/D/O. Studio Swine debuts two new bodies of work that fuse technology with design, while capturing an essence of the city.
‘New York has such an iconic urban skyline, with its big industrial buildings and bridges, but you’ve also got this incredible river flowing through,’ says Groves. ‘It’s a very dynamic atmosphere, literally with its coastal weather and changing light on the river all the time, which in contrast to the urban environment is quite exciting. Similarly, the work that we’ve created is a real convergence of technology and nature.’
One of the ‘Dawn Particles’ blown glass vessels
‘It’s quite different from our past work,’ Murakami adds, ‘In the past we would go to a city and draw inspiration from the city and we would translate that very literally into our work, but this time, it’s more about creating a feeling or an atmosphere. It’s more instinctive rather than narrative-based.’
Natural elements have always played heavily in Studio Swine’s creations, and these new works are no different. The exhibition opens with ‘Dawn Particles’, an electrifying series of hand-blown glass vessels that are filled with the chemical Krypton, in its plasma form, which have been installed in an all-red room.
‘Plasma is a form of matter, and it’s the most abundant in our known universe,’ Groves explains. ‘Dark matter is the unaccountable mass of universe, but when we look up into the night sky, that’s all plasma.’
Detail view of one of the ‘Fog Paintings’ vitrines
As a charged gas, plasma is responsive to magnetism – a characteristic Studio Swine has honed in on by passing fluctuating voltages through the gas to change its behaviour in the work. From lightning-like crackles to a high frequency ringing sound that emanates from the glass vibrating, the pieces dynamically acknowledge the presence of larger energy and material forces around us.
From this level of intensity, visitors venture into a more serene second room, where ‘Fog Paintings’ is situated. Expanding on previous efforts of working with fog, this piece is comprised of two vitrines that are gradually filled with fog that is then interjected with shards of light. Intended to evoke the feeling of light passing through the atmosphere, the vitrines’ turbulent, ephemeral contents create a shifting sense of volume and colour to distort one’s sense of weight and time. Inspired by the transcendentalist landscape paintings of Turner and Thomas Cole, both works celebrate the awe of energy and the significance of the invisible world around us.
‘We’re really interested in materials and the tangible materiality of things,’ Groves summarises. ‘We like using technology but we’re not interested in the standard interface that it has. We’ve always been drawn to materials through our practice. Our take on technology still has a very tangible element. Because [the ephemeral] is transient and fleeting, it can make a more powerful memory and experience because the moment disappears. You’ll never see that particular vision again.’§