• english.

news

When landscape is the object: Frederik Molenschot's lighting designs leave large impressions

Walking under or around Frederik Molenschot's futuristic, fantastical installations might make you question exactly where you are. In a specific, albeit reimagined, city? In the Amazon? Or even under the sea

Keeping the viewer's imagination in a fertile, metaphorical state, especially as it pertains to interpreting natural and built landscapes, is one of Molenschot's objectives. The celebrated metal artist, an integral part of the Dutch Design movement, claims the Shanghai skyline as one of his first big inspirations. Part of the Siemens Mobile Design Lab, a five-month experimental research project based in Munich, he was one of nine designers from around the world working on what he describes as a “very Utopian project". When the team went to Shanghai for several weeks, they researched how phone communications and the cellular industry affected the development of architecture. There, Molenschot was riveted by the congestion of skyscrapers and how their lights reflected in the sky, obscuring and revealing the stars. Inspired, he began the drawings that would develop into his well-known CityLights chandeliers.

Keeping the viewer's imagination in a fertile, metaphorical state, especially as it pertains to interpreting natural and built landscapes, is one of Molenschot's objectives.

CWG-Molenschot_ArticleLOcom_2.jpg
Citylight Chandelier


Inspiration in the elements

Today, his influences are numerous, but they always include landscapes of a sort. They range from traditional natural settings to sci-fi pioneer Jacques Cousteau, who Molenschot describes as “that French guy… who invent[ed] a world on the water". These show in installations from Artificial Forests – demonstrating how fragile and valuable our renewable resources are – to the Ginger Blimp Chandelier, a commission that reinvents the shape and colour of ginger root. Still, Molenschot isn't necessarily making political statements. Rather, he's drawing observations about how art and design take from the environment. He's interested in what shall be done about it from a systemic point of view, either now or in the future.

Molenschot isn't necessarily making political statements. Rather, he's drawing observations about how art and design take from the environment. He's interested in what shall be done about it from a systemic point of view, either now or in the future.

Origin story

Becoming known for metalwork and large-format sculptures – both with and without lights – was a surprise for the artist. At 18, he enrolled in the Design Academy in Eindhoven, where he studied everything from interior design to landscape design to cityscapes. He intended to be a public space designer. Even after he began crafting objects, he only first worked on a large scale with bronze in 2011.

Becoming known for metalwork and large-format sculptures – both with and without lights – was a surprise for the artist.

Yet becoming an industrial artist also felt destined to him, in a way. Molenschot's family owned factories, including one that made industrial scales. In fact, he grew up near the factory. The large, powerful scales fascinated him as a child, even whilst he was equally drawn to the fine visual arts, constantly sketching and painting. Today, he still considers his work in the sphere of public space design. His purpose in crafting large-format objects with industrial materials is to make the viewer feel overwhelmed, in much the same way dramatic landscapes can make one feel inconsequential.
 

CWG-Molenschot_ArticleLOcom.jpg

Citylight Black Avenue

It makes sense, then, that Molenschot doesn't begin his designs with a particular object in mind. Instead, he investigates the landscape that interests him, and allows it to suggest and inform his sculpture. Indeed, landscapes of all kinds are his muse, and he's obsessive about obeying that inspiration. "It's about doing the research", says Molenschot, who credits his mother and stepfather with nurturing his intellectual curiosity. His investigations frequently take the route of actual travel, such as to a redwood forest in America. Other times, he studies history, such as when he analysed 1960s Soviet space exploration to create the wearable Lost in Traffic Space Glove.

It makes sense, then, that Molenschot doesn't begin his designs with a particular object in mind. Instead, he investigates the landscape that interests him, and allows it to suggest and inform his sculpture.

Following the Landscape

Naturally, the types of projects Molenschot produces vary based on whether they are his own obsessions or commissioned. Yet even with the latter, his signature is apparent, and he is meticulous about development. For instance, his work in Amsterdam's The Roast Room restaurant includes a Ginger Blimp as well as a bronze Tower of Babel that drips bangers.

For indulging his own passions, whether they involve lighting and metals or some entirely different medium, he enjoys doing series. A whimsical tower of blue cheese is one such example. For that, even though he'd already done his homework with the wheels of blue, he went to Tuscany to see factories and chat up cheesemongers. He wanted to fully understand the impact of that particular foodstuff on the lives of the people who live there and make it; the structures they develop for such an important agricultural product; and how those buildings changed the landscape itself. More will be unveiled during his DYSFUNCTIONAL exhibition, during the Venice Biennale 2019.

Currently, Molenschot is studying World War II bridges all over Europe, which he says "don't look pretty". But they fascinate him because they're all constructed very technically, and in that way they're also connected. He doesn't know yet what he is going to make. "It's always an 'after' thing," he says. "We find out why they have these shapes, and then they could wind up being an object – a sculpture, a seat, or a bookshelf".


Stressing the Process

Despite being able to handle everything from painting to welding himself, he credits teamwork for much of his success. His designs begin the turning of the wheel, but when making something with what he calls “a sculptural heart", he stresses that it's a process. “The moment you start expanding to large pieces, it becomes very complicated for your own head to understand what you're making, and also, that it needs to go to somebody's house or to a museum or in a show… [so] it's a continual search for form and flow. Together we think about the completion".

It's a continual search for form and flow

He hasn't strayed from the process he developed in 2005, when he founded Studio Molen in his mid-twenties. There, he works with a full-time team of seven colleagues, making small moulds and mock-ups, developing everything including the electrical systems for his chandeliers. He outsources heavier graft to the foundry north of there, where he employs about 50 people. Not all of them are artists. “Half of them we educate to do this job," he says.

Regardless of their art education background, he's grateful to his employees and their labour-intensive contributions, as he is equally to colleagues and collaborators for new opportunities. His respect for them often shows up on his Instagram feed, where he also unveils work in progress, finished pieces, and exhibition news. "People are to me the most important," he says. "People I work with, people I make [art] for, people coming in the gallery". But at the end of the day, his goal is simple: He wants to make, literally, a big mark. "I hope when you leave this place you're like, huh. I saw something different".

Important information
This document is issued by Bank Lombard Odier & Co Ltd or an entity of the Group (hereinafter “Lombard Odier”). It is not intended for distribution, publication, or use in any jurisdiction where such distribution, publication, or use would be unlawful, nor is it aimed at any person or entity to whom it would be unlawful to address such a document. This document was not prepared by the Financial Research Department of Lombard Odier.

Read more.