“We wanted to create something that represented the ghost of an object,” says Piergiorgio Robino, director of the Italian art, design and architecture collective Studio Nucleo. “That was our idea for Presenze.” This unusual furniture collection began as a commission from the Nilufar Gallery in Milan, which asked the Turin-based studio to design a console table for it in April (Presenze I) and later a fireside armchair for Design Miami/Basel.
“To us, the console is really not a contemporary object,” Robino says. “I remember one being in my grandparents’ house, but they don’t really exist in contemporary design so we thought about representing these obsolete objects like ghosts or memories.”
Searching for the ethereal quality they desired, Studio Nucleo began working with cubes of transparent epoxy resin and assembled them into the familiar shapes of chairs and tables. “We’ve used resin in a lot of our projects but never transparent resin,” Robino says. “The idea of casting each cube one by one was to create this incredible effect of ghostly transparency and colour gradient.”
Proposed as in-situ works, the pieces are designed to look as if they are draining colour from their surroundings: dark brown cubes fading to orange reflect the walls and floor of the house for which the chair was intended, while the yellow tones of the console table pick up the frescoes and mosaics at the Palazzo Durini, where it were exhibited during the Milan Furniture Fair.
The use of standard 5 x 5cm cubes, lends the Presenze pieces a distinctly digital aesthetic (even though the cubes are crafted by hand). They are like games of Tetris stopped midway, extrapolated into 3D and presented as sculpture. They express a state of transience that matches the “ghostly” concept, an effect enhanced by the imprecision of hand-casting and colouring the resin blocks.
Some blocks have a milky quality, while others are completely transparent. “Each piece is like a shadow,” Robino says. “Something that’s there, but also isn’t.”