Light is ubiquitous: an impalpable yet pervasive presence in our daily lives. We begin to understand its glorious nature when a sunbeam lazily drifts through a dust-filled room, or when a shimmer in flawlessly cut crystal catches our eye. We revel in the warm rays of the sun and stave off darkness with incandescent and flourescent bulbs, a trite flip of a single switch having the power to transform or reveal a space that is hidden to us.
For Enzo Catellani, however, Lighting Guru and Brand Director of a leading company in the lighting sector, Catellani & Smith, light is the proverbial canvas for thought-provoking lighting fixtures that elevate it into works of art. “Light is not only functional to the requirements of people who buy a lamp, but it is something more, that goes beyond a mere lighting object,” relates Enzo, “A lamp becomes an object that raises sensations, sometimes for an unexpected lighting effect, or by the shades created by a light beam that diffuses light through a hand-painted screen or a crystal lens.”
How does one harness a medium that is impalpable? Enzo says it is all about examining the different ways in which it can be manipulated to achieve particular objectives or experiences. “In my works I have studied how light refracts on different surfaces to develop my concept of light into objects,” he reveals. For instance, glass is one material that interacts well with light, and a symbiosis of the two brings intriguing results. “Glass allows you to transform shadows into colors,” Enzo relates, “I was fascinated by the possibility to give new shapes to light, through transparent, but vivid and even lively coloured glass.” This gave birth to the light installation, “Hallucination,” where he combined LED lights and colored glass to create evocative and mesmerizing effects that is almost sculptural in its beauty, one that invites introspection on the interplay of architectural space and light.
This structuring of the many ways in which light can be experienced requires a peculiar manufacturing process, one that combines artisanal attitudes with groundbreaking technology. In this sense, channeling light through a variety of mediums allows a fundamental exploration of opacity/transparency and the experience of form. Light, therefore, is elevated beyond the function of illumination, into the realm of art, possessing the power to shape human perception of space and materials.
“Our pieces require a great amount of craftsmanship,” reveals Enzo, “It’s the hand of the craftsman that builds them, his manual work that creates the imperfections that make each lamp a unique object. No two pieces are perfectly alike.” It is perhaps this close attention to detail that has given Catellani & Smith 28 years of success in the lighting industry, a philosophy that Enzo espouses as the essence of his company's operations. “ The basic rule that I have set in everything I do and that I have instilled in my collaborators is that when working at a lamp, they must put their heart and soul into what they are doing,” shares Enzo.
Catellani & Smith is available at Anthropology Resources Inc.
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Photographs from Anthropology Resources Inc. and the author