Dezeen Magazine

Vincenzo de Cotiis uses painterly approach to create high-detail furniture

Italian architect Vincenzo de Cotiis combines recycled fibreglass with precious materials to create his En Plein Air objects, which are currently on show in London.

De Cotiis is presenting 20 pieces of sculptural furniture at the Carpenter's Workshop Gallery in Mayfair, including lighting, tables, cabinets and bookshelves.

Each piece comprises semi-precious stone and cast brass set in resin, alongside elements of fibreglass and Murano glass.

The designer said his approach was slightly back to front – he started by thinking about the surface of the objects he was creating.

"I always start from materials – they've always been part of my research. But they all come together with a sort of line, which in this case is the material of recycled fibreglass," De Cotiis told Dezeen. "I start from a design or a sketch that then builds the materiality of the piece."

"In this specific project it was a more complex process," he said, "because I started from the point of view of painting. Treating a sculpture as a painting is a bit contradictory."

Pieces include a tall lamp in cast brass and Indian stone, with two neon light strips stacked vertically within it, and a wall-hung cabinet with a stone casing and a silvered brass front that stands almost two metres tall.

Many of the pieces feature irregular blocks stacked on top of each other, and are slanted or leaning. The function of each object is not always immediately clear.

Tall stone and brass bookcases are placed in the gallery so that the viewer can't immediately see the shelves – these reveal themselves on the opposite side. The brass of the shelves has been cast with planks of wood so that it takes on its grain and markings.

Recycled fibreglass forms a patinated shell around the shelves of another bookcase.

The name of the exhibition, En Plein Air, came from the late 19th century French painters who left their studios to work outside.

"I'm trying to take from Impressionist paintings, when the ateliers were starting to close down and painters were going outside to paint, taking everything such as the light, materials and colours, as key concepts. I used these in my sculptures," explained De Cotiis.

The designer sees no strong distinction between art and functional pieces, but rather sees the two as intrinsically linked. He believes that each of the objects has a soul, so it is important how people connect with them.

"Of course I like to imagine someone having dinner, or someone leaving a book on a table but I don't like to think about the function of the object, but rather the person or viewer relating to it," he said.

De Cotiis has been collecting fibreglass for years and likes how it changes over time. As for the unusual combination of recycled and precious materials used in the pieces, he is particularly pleased at how his experimentations with glass give an almost 3D effect.

The two types of glass melt at different temperatures. The smaller glass pieces explode within the larger piece to give the effect of pieces of glass existing within the larger glass slab – a process which is difficult to control.

"We tried to match the glass to the colours of the stones when we did it but when you mix them together you don't know how it will turn out. These explosions can be compared with the brushes of the impressionist painters," he explained.

"If you look at these colours, you will think of nature, but also the concept of the air and the light are referred to in the furniture."

The show opened at the Carpenter's Workshop Gallery on Albermarle Street on 15 September, to coincide with London Design Festival, but continues until 23 November.

Other LDF exhibitions that are still open include a display of colourful sculptures at the Soane Museum and a showcase of Czech toy design.

More images