Finnish designer Teemu Salonen’s iconoclastic work is an active renunciation of the simple lines and unadorned nature pervasive in the Scandinavian design that surrounds him. Placing form over function, he sees his studio practice as both experimentation and play, where a variety of materials and techniques can be merged to create unique objects of sculptural design.
For Salonen, making things by hand is an essential part of his identity as a designer. His years of experience as a curator in visual arts, coupled with degrees in carpentry and craft design, have developed into a singular perspective that marries elements of both classical and kitsch design.
The Chinese Restaurant Series began as a desire to create a lamp that was the antithesis of traditional Scandinavian modern design. Like the ubiquitous “Chinese Restaurant” that shares little in common with traditional or authentic Chinese culture, Salonen’s works are an amalgamation of fantastic ideas of natural and classical forms.
Though initial sketches are made, they are more fundamental to determine the atmosphere and mood of the work before the electrical components are mapped out. Working with sculptor’s clay, Salonen hand-builds and models each element, starting with the trunk-like armature that supports the leaf-like segments that resemble the acanthus plant (most commonly found on Corinthian columns). The leaf forms multiply and bend haphazardly like coral, often building upon themselves much like a 16th century grotto or a Gaudi cathedral.
After firing, Salonen finishes each work in either a dark metallic glaze, or in soft opaque colors using gouache or matte finish paint. The effect is something dark and dreamy, both sweet and slightly sinister. The sophisticated is skillfully laced with ostentatious elements of flourish, effortlessly rolled into one asymmetrical package.