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Calvin Hui

How did you come to work with Olivia Putman?

C: In the past few years, aside from contemporary art work, I also collected design furniture and decorative art pieces. It is my personal passion for bringing art and design together; therefore when I shared this idea of presenting an art and design exhibition in Hong Kong to Olivia Putman, our desire of collaboration immediately brought us together.

To Olivia and I, “nature” is a main source of inspiration. I always want to collaborate with western designers for a cross-discipline project. It is Olivia’s attention to detail, from composition to colours; materials to craftsmanship, which I greatly admire. Thanks to our shared passion and vision, Olivia accepted my invitation of co-curating a “dialogue” show.

How were the paintings selected? Why these specific paintings? / How do you think your furniture and the paintings work together in the space?

C: After defining the exhibition theme, Olivia and I discussed about the ideology behind, and how to curate an exhibition space, instead of seeing a furniture just a piece of furniture, or a painting just a piece of art hanging on the wall. The relevance needs to be constructed, and such relevance is about bringing a shared essence of aesthetic. Along this vision, I selected three Chinese artists Xiaohua, Tian Wei and Wang Aijun who will present their works of various media in Hong Kong for the first time; and their works shared both spirituality of Chinese culture and individuality of their own experience. The form of abstraction is seen in their paintings which represents an universal aesthetic value derived from the “nature-ness” and “time-ness”, which to me is perfectly complementing the Dialogue theme; and harmonizing Olivia’s collection in my exhibition space. Such contrasting harmony will give a stimulating experience to both the artists and audience.

Olivia was tasked with bringing east meets west artistic influences together. Which, do you think, of Olivia’s pieces best unites western and oriental influences?

C: I particularly bring Chinese artist Tian Wei’s “Spiritual Light” series and Olivia’s “Eclipse” mirror in one room to reflect such western and oriental influences. Mirror is a blank surface to show spatial existence through reflection of light. Olivia interprets “co-existence of emptiness” inspired by the aesthetics of blankness in Chinese ink painting as well as the moment of eclipse. 

How do you hope to continue the dialogue between western designers and eastern artists in the future?

C: “Artist exchange” is the way to continue engaging the dialogue; crossover projects in this approach will be further developed. I invited Olivia Putman to extend this Dialogue concept and debut her world premier collection with me later this year in Fine Art Asia 2015 (3 to 7 Oct at HKCEC); and she is appointed as the “Global Ambassador of Design” to celebrate the fair’s tenth anniversary featuring a new “Art and Design” Pavilion.

It is always thought-provoking to bring western designers and Chinese artists to work on a same subject matter. Artists may take the opportunity to absorb western philosophy; and allow them to re-think the existence of art in the contemporary living environment. This actually echoers my belief that art and design form a major part of our culture which closely resonates our daily living experience.

Oliver Putman, Mirror, “Eclipse”

Wang Aijun, ‘Beyond Heaven No.86’

Olivia Putman, Console, “Ondes”


Tian Wei, ‘NO.1 SHI ER’

Olivia Putman, Floor Lamp, “Jour de Fête”

Olivia Putman

How did you come to work with Calvin Hui?

O: It is a great chance to present my new creations in 3812 Art Space. The main concept of this exhibition is to expose an unseen mix of beautiful pieces of art and furniture. It is very exciting. We discussed a lot and had many exchanges with Calvin Hui in order to imagine this project. To me, the Chinese creative approach was stimulating and new. I am always very interested to learn about new culture and I was impressed by the rapidity of the decisions we made together.

You have a background in art history/working in the arts. Can you speak about the relationship between art and furniture design in general? Do they have similar effects on a space? Can they work together to create the same atmosphere in a room? What do you think the biggest differences are between art and design?

O: I had the chance of choosing art history as La Sorbonne in Paris. I was passionate by many fields from contemporary art to Italian Renaissance and Chinese landscape paintings. It taught me how rich the art field is and how important it is for the human beings. The relationship with design is very important as design is the best way to enhance a space. I think art and design can either work together or be totally in opposition which give a very special effect. I love the idea of having an 18th century piece of furniture under a very contemporary art piece. The main difference between art and design is that art is not useful, only for the soul.

Through your collection of contemporary furniture at the exhibition, you have aimed to promote a cultural exchange. Was it a challenge to create an East meets West style? If so, what was particularly challenging about it?

O: The main idea that guides my work was the dialogue I would be able to imagine between our two cultures. This confrontation is the result of a mix: my own occidental point of view and the use of traditional forms that could be local like a lantern or the use of a material which has been very important in the eastern part of the world like bronze.

The most difficult challenge was then to translate into reality what arrived like a dream into my mind.

Which piece(s) do you think exemplifies your style? / Can you describe your quintessential style in three sentences? 

O: My aesthetic is linked to one goal: I try to imagine the right design for a purpose, I have no special recipe. I have no special preference for any of my projects as all of them were an intense moment of my life. What I am proud of is the timeless aesthetic of some projects like the Lalique collection or the “Jour de fête” lamp I designed.

What are the furniture design trends that you’re most excited about? 

O: I try to escape from trends and fashion as it just means that it won’t be trendy in few months…I more attracted by a timeless style.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

O: The main idea that guides my work for that collection was the dialogue I would be able to imagine between our two cultures. This confrontation is the result of a mix: my own occidental point of view and the use of traditional forms that could be local like a lantern or the use of a material which has been very important in the eastern part of the world like bronze. The most difficult challenge was then to translate into reality what arrived like a dream into my mind.

Are you fan of Hong Kong? What, if anything, inspires you about the city? Where are your favourite hotels, landmarks, restaurants, cafes, bars…

O: I am totally fan of Hong Kong. One of my chances is to have a good friend who walk me around the city! I love to discover a city by walking in the streets, passing from a traditional Chinese shop to the incredible Landmark Mall for example. For a drink I love to go to the Sevva bar where the view is amazing.

What would be your dream project to work on and why?

O: There are so many fields I want to explore because of my immense curiosity.  Step by step, I do my best efforts to satisfy the clients who allow me to design objects or places I never did before. I am actually designing a yacht for the first time. Something new is always stimulating for me. 

What are some of the projects you are most proud of at Studio Putman?

O: I have no special preference for any of my projects as all of them were an intense moment of my life. What I am proud of is the timeless aesthetic of some projects like the Lalique collection or the Jour de fêtelamp I designed.

Your reach is diverse, from a chair for EMECO to scenography for Christophe. What projects do you most enjoy working on?

O: Everyday is different at Studio Putman because all our projects are different. I enjoy working in many fields and I particularly love to imagine new hotels and private residences. I also like a lot to design offices because it is very grateful to transform the daily life at work. I noticed in the offices we designed that people are more dynamic and effective. It is very rewarding for us.

According to your website, you are working on several new collaborations that will be realized next year. Please can you share details on those?

O: I just launched a new facets collection and won a prize for best design in San Diego with that new creation. I am designing a second hotel on the island of Minorca in Spain and several private residences all over the world.

Besides, I am the Global Ambassador of Design at Fine Art Asia 2015 which will be held in coming October, thanks very much to Calvin Hui.