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Espinasse31 Contemporary Art Gallery is pleased to present ‘Art Meets Design’, a two-part group exhibition featuring works by seven artists, on show from September 5 to October 31. Since its beginnings, the gallery has intently focused on the intersection between fine art and other creative disciplines, such as fashion—as spotlighted in its 2017 group exhibition ‘Art Fucks Fashion’, May 2017—and now design. This comes at a time when the city of Milan once again becomes the international capital of innovation, creativity, and beauty; after a year and a half on stand by, the historical Salone del Mobile returns for its 2021 edition.

The reopening of Espinasse31 Contemporary Art Gallery for a new season honours this exciting milestone. The gallery, whose focus on highlighting its design projects and those of its artists has recently grown, announces its first-ever group exhibition featuring both artworks and furniture pieces in its Milan gallery space (Viale Carlo Espinasse 31), as well as an installation of sculptural works in its temporary exhibition space, the Zaha Hadid Residences in CityLife Milano (Via Senofonte 2/A).

For this first part of ‘Art Meets Design’, Espinasse31 connects the two disciplines of art and design under three different aesthetic frameworks: minimalism, abstraction, and new age sustainability. Keeping the idea of coexistence as a central axis, the gallery’s first three exhibition spaces are transformed, emulating a living space rather than a showroom. With this in mind, works by Veronica Mar, Carlos Cesar Alves and Robi Walters are exhibited, juxtaposing the art and design iterations of each artist’s idiosyncratic creativity. In order to fortify the relationship between both disciplines, a sculptural installation by Marcello Silvestre—architect, designer, and artist—is also exhibited in the last space, thus visually concluding the tour of the gallery’s Milan headquarters.

Whether art and design are one and the same thing has always been a debate among professionals of both areas. Art is said to ask questions while design provides the answers. However, a truly holistic approach places questions and answers, form and function, emotion and reason, all in the same box and under the same umbrella: beauty we can live with. By showing the way in which paintings, sculptures, and furnishings may share the same visual principles, the first part of ‘Art Meets Design’ places the spotlight on style, as a way of translating an aesthetic identity into a way of living.

This philosophy is embodied through the works of Verónica Mar. The Spanish contemporary artist and designer, whose works represent pure beauty and functionality, seeks to represent the essence of nature and the soul through a minimum material presence. Her organic lines, as depicted in the form of painting, are the basis of all that she creates; they recall constant movement and regeneration, while taking on a light and ethereal presence. The same can be said for her design pieces, created under Mies van der Rohe’s “less is more” mindset, and aiming to integrate nature in interior spaces. Among her key values, Verónica Mar mentions “sustainability, harmony and humanism”; this way, the creative identity that she presents to the world is not just an artistic style, but also a lifestyle. A successful creative, Mar has previously exhibited her furniture works in Milan Design Week with Porcelanosa and Rossana Orlandi. For this year’s event, Espinasse31 presents a comprehensive vision of her oeuvre by showing paintings, sculptures, and sculptural furnishings within one same space. For the gallery, the adaptability of her art and design works into the living space is key, and further exemplified through a maquette; specially created for this occasion, it allows us to envision Mar’s Unity sculptures, Soul benches, and Ula furniture in marble—all within the reach of our homes.

On the opposite side of the aesthetic spectrum is Carlos Cesar Alves, fusing gestural emotion with geometric reason in his abstract works. As an achromat—living with total colour blindness—the Brazilian artist’s intense and dynamic use of colour in his paintings is impressive, not only on a visual level, but also in terms of technique. Despite the versatility among Alves’ works, the use of resin is a common element; it is this medium that the artist has truly mastered over the years, and earned him a lengthy list of awards. This creates a glossy, ceramic look on top of fascinating and complex patterns, making for a recognisable artistic style. Besides this personal quality, the artist’s abstract paintings are deeply influenced by European modernism and American colour field painting, resulting in a body of work that encompasses both expressionist and geometric variants of abstraction. In this sense, Alves depicts emotion and reason in equal parts, much like the natural split in the human brain. After years of experience in using painting as an outlet for his creativity, Carlos Cesar Alves has started a complementary furniture line, on show as part of ‘Art Meets Design’ in Espinasse31. His passion for Midcentury Modern interiors is reflected in his design pieces, which translate the elegance and uniqueness of his artworks into functional objects for the most exquisite moments of every day living. 

A third stylistic proposition to coexisting works of art and design is that of Robi Walters. The London-based artist is focused on the ethos of transformation, with a creative identity that is reliant on the concepts of sustainability and spirituality, making his works consistent with New Age approaches to aesthetic. His mesmerising collages have captivated celebrity collectors including Thandie Newton, Usain Bolt, or Diplo, and placed him in the Telegraph’s list of top UK creatives. In 2018, Michelin-Star Chef Tom Kerridge commissioned Walters to create bespoke design work for his London restaurant. In 2020, Robi was invited by Aston Martin to become their Artist in Residence. The artist owes this exceptional success to his unique artistic practice; by constructing mixed-media pieces from recycled packagings or broken vinyls, Walters has a creative process that extends the utility of mundane items and amplifies their value. His use of such materials reflects his concerns about human consumption and sustainability; furthermore, the artist’s signature arrangement of these fragments into lotus-like forms represents his own interest in meditation, giving his vibrant works socially-charged and personal significance alike. By integrating his recycled collage works into both wall pieces and tabletops, Robi Walters proves that innovation and creativity know no bounds of material, method, or discipline.

Finally, while the Part I of ‘Art Meets Design’ focuses on artistic movement or style, the exhibition intends to leave a lasting impression of interdisciplinary beauty. This essence is reflected through an installation of sculptures by Marcello Silvestre. The Italian architect, designer and contemporary artist is known for his instantly-recognisable and enigmatic—figurative yet geometric, human but anonymous, digital plus physical—artworks. It is Silvestre’s use of architectural precision, design principles, 3D printing and artisan craftthat achieves this effect. Through this final amalgam, Espinasse31 sums up its take on Milan Design Week as a contemporary art gallery in the city. Through the exhibition as a whole, Espinasse31 makes a larger point, showing how art and design offer frameworks of ethics and aesthetics. By reflecting a set of values to live by, each artist—whether through painting, sculpture, or furnishings—creates a unique form of beauty to live with.

Art Meets Design (I) is open from September 5 at Espinasse31 Contemporary Gallery: Viale Carlo Espinasse 31, 20156 Milan. BOOK A VISIT

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