British designer Michael Young's aluminium creations @ CID Grand-Hornu

16.02.2016 - Dries Tack

Designer travels

British designers are very much in vogue at the Grand Hornu Centre for Innovation and Design. After hosting the work of Jasper Morrison last year, Mary Pok, the Centre’s Director has chosen to make the site the setting for the aluminium creations of Michael Young.

The designer, a fan of experimental procedures, seems to manipulate the material without fear or taboo. With a fine disregard for the poor reputation of aluminium, he takes visible pleasure in pushing back its limits to show us the design potential, bringing out all its rich diversity. Michael Young injects aluminium with gas, beautifully combines it with wood, and pairs it with glass to catch the light...

British designer Michael Young's aluminium creations @ CID Grand-Hornu

This native of Sunderland, a small industrial town in north-east England, is undoubtedly one of the most creative designers of his generation. For him, "The sky is the limit", an element that, as a seasoned globetrotter, is close to his heart. He has adopted a nomadic lifestyle and admits that travel gets his creative juices going. From time to time, he adds another destination to his list of contact addresses. Hong Kong is the latest place he calls home but he has also bought a warehouse in Brussels, where he has installed a studio. He says he likes the authentic side of the Belgian capital, its boutiques, art galleries and most of all, its restaurants. He speaks modestly of it as his "second home" and confesses that he loves to relax and reflect here, between trips.

British designer Michael Young's aluminium creations @ CID Grand-Hornu

"Belgium has had Michael Young on its radar for years," confirms Marie Pok. Firstly, because he lives partly in Belgium, and secondly, because he left an indelible impression on everyone who saw his picnic table at Courtrai’s Biennale Intérieur in 2002. Michael Young is an internationally renowned designer and it was he who made the first step towards the Grand Hornu, asking us whether the time was right to present a retrospective. As we fine-tuned the project, we decided to focus on his creations in aluminium. It is certainly an ambiguous material, which also has its disadvantages, but it has the virtue of being 100% recyclable." It is also one of Michael Young’s favourite materials and takes on a completely surprising and innovative expression in his hands. The most striking example is probably the "oxygen chair", which wouldn’t look out of place in an alien home! The effect is achieved by injecting gas at high temperature and subjecting it to very strong pressure in the molten aluminium. While this takes us into the realm of pure experimentation, Michael Young nevertheless claims that it is design as an industrial art that interests him, at mass production scale and that one of his main objectives is to come up with objects that are designed to last. 

British designer Michael Young's aluminium creations @ CID Grand-Hornu

Between the creation of the "Sabor sex toy" and a limited edition sink for Hedge Gallery, the designer assumes his "Jack of all trades" side. The common denominator of his different modes of expression is the mix of originality and innovation, and a wilful disregard for making pieces that are immediately self-evident. What is evident, by contrast, is his desire to share his knowledge and desire to showcase the skills of those who work with him. While he is already widely recognised by his peers, there is no doubt that the retrospective presented at the Grand Hornu will also be of interest to the general public.

British designer Michael Young's aluminium creations @ CID Grand-Hornu

Al (L)

12 niches to explore the aluminium projects of Michael Young. The exhibition is educational and fun. It invites us to travel between lightness and originality, between delicacy and extravagance. It reveals the extraordinary creativity of the designer, coupled with a true love of technical challenges. The space known as the Crypte for its part is dedicated to a selection of historical and contemporary pieces made of aluminium. We discover the bench by Xavier Lust, pieces by Jean Prouvé and Marcel Breuer, the Olympic torch created in 2012 by Barber & Osgerby or Tokujin Yoshioka’s strange "memory chair", which retains the imprint of the body. As nicely put by Maria Cristina Didero, the curator of the exhibition, "this is a selection driven only by the heart", totally subjective, whose common point is to show the public challenging and remarkable pieces. The exhibition is complemented by some iconic pieces by Michael Young, installed in the Forge: the dog house, a luxury kennel for dogs, the "newspaper clock" made of folded newspapers or the "Tekke rug", a tribute to the know-how of the Tekke Turkmen tribe and that is inspired by the water and oil visuals created in the 60s by Pink Floyd.

British designer Michael Young's aluminium creations @ CID Grand-Hornu
British designer Michael Young's aluminium creations @ CID Grand-Hornu
British designer Michael Young's aluminium creations @ CID Grand-Hornu

Al (l): Until the 29th of May 2016 at the CID

More info: cid-grand-hornu.be

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