Singaporean artists and designer Nathan Yong has just released 'FAREWELL TO REASON' - a collection of functional objects of art made of "fluid" marble. This collection marks a technical premiere and a new chapter in the history of design. A tribute to Brutalism, these architectural pieces are a nod to Modernism, fusing human savoir-faire, the natural beauty of onyx and state-of-the-art technology. These designs are made from onyx, a banded stone not unlike agate. The colour variation comes from the dissolving and redepositing of the limestone. The strikingly luminescent stone varies from white to black and every hue in between. The subtle colouration contributes to its unique appeal, as does the translucency of onyx, which allows light to shine through in certain applications. Each piece is unique by nature and only produced in a limited edition
Since the launch of his eponymous design studio two decades ago, Nathan has gained a large, international audience and recognition. Lesser known than the numerous pieces born from his long-term collaborations with high-end brands such as Design Within Reach (USA), Living Divani (Italy), or Ligne Roset (France), his artistic explorations have enabled him to delve deeper into his fascination for materials. From the most delicate glazed porcelain to a variety of stones, his works of art have conveyed Yong’s desire to enhance the intrinsic qualities of materials in unexpected ways.
With 'FAREWELL TO REASON', Nathan Yong (or rather his alter ego, KSY) has embarked on his most intimate artistic adventure so far. It is a tale of exploration, read with fresh eyes, unmarred by prejudice or fear, an unfurling flow of artistic aspirations enriched by the designer’s heightened sense of materials. This new chapter called for a new alias, or rather a return to his roots, choosing to revert to his birth name, Kok Seng, and to embrace his real self, nurtured by the sum of numerous experiences. "KSY": the self-effacing choice of initials meant to emphasize his works as the only protagonist of this new story.
“The truthfulness of materials of constructions, concrete, bricks and stone, shall be maintained in all buildings constructed or to be constructed. The seed of Chandigarh is well sown. It is for the citizens to see that the tree flourishes.”
In every story, one can find hidden clues, hints, homages. For Nathan, the story of 'FAREWELL TO REASON' began in December 2019 with his visit to architect Le Corbusier's chef d’oeuvre in Chandigarh, India. Both a long-anticipated and dreaded journey, he knew it would bear great influence on his work - Chandigarh ultimately left an imprint on this project. Nathan shares a similar fascination for materials with Le Corbusier, although expressed in different ways throughout their respective careers.
The Swiss-French architect and designer’s modernist manifesto had always appealed to Jawaharlal Nehru, the former Prime Minister of India. After World War II, the then Prime Minister of India entrusted Le Corbusier with the creation of “a new town, symbolic of the freedom of India, unfettered by the traditions of the past”. Le Corbusier broke ground on Chandigarh, a vast area of farmlands adjacent to the Himalayan foothills, in 1951. it was the first embodiment of a "Garden City". Chandigarh is organised on a grid and punctuated with public space and would mark the contemporary history of planning and architecture.
Fascinated by technology as a way to express his ideas and transfigure his art, Nathan insists on being aware of the realities of production modes: “Technology is my brush, material is my medium”. In the mind of the designer and artist, validity can only be achieved if state-of-the-art technology is coupled with the right materials, relying on the knowledge amassed along over 20 years of explorations in the field of making.
Rather than forcing materials into submission, Nathan singles out any specificity and looks for a technological way to enhance it. He imagines functional artworks or pieces of furniture and facilitates a dialogue between production methods and materials transcribed in each piece.
For 'FAREWELL TO REASON', the vocabulary of materials is reduced to essential forms. Clean lines highlight the intrinsic qualities of the marble slabs; the natural tangents of the material create each form. Individually selected onyxes were chosen for the beautiful designs of their veins, their translucent or opaque grain, and their strong or subdued natural colours.
Farewell to Reason 01 by Nathan Yong, Image courtesy of Nathan Yong
“Nature has unique ways to surprise us: onyx does not only come in white, black or brown. It could have been an expected choice for the modernist lines of the FAREWELL TO REASON work, colours that we associate with seriousness, credibility. But Modernism, in my eyes, shares the same unrestraint or uninhibitedness as Nature: spontaneity in forms, unconstraint in colours, translated into many materials”
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