Pass by Gallery Sally Dan-Cuthbert on any given evening and the place is aglow like a light box. With pristine white walls and crisp glass apex windows, it’s a beacon of style on an otherwise banal stretch of road in Rushcutters Bay, Sydney.
If you go down there now, though, you’re in for a big surprise. The glow emanates from even more deeply as new works by Dutch designer Sabine Marcelis intrigue with their ethereal flamboyance.
There are resin cubes (perhaps stools, maybe side tables) in milky pastel hues, their edges seeming to dissolve into space. There are wall-mounted mirrors that look as if they’re in mid-eclipse – the silvered reflective section apparently slipping off the glass surface to create a dynamic frisson.
“A lot of what I’m working on is an investigation of light, how it can create effects and atmospheres,” says the Rotterdam-based designer, in Sydney to open her solo exhibition Shadow Light.
Marcelis was born in the Netherlands, but as a young child she and her sister moved with their parents to New Zealand, where her dad, an engineer, puttered them about in a campervan until deciding to settle in rural Waitawheta, near Waihi on the North Island. As a teenager, she became obsessed with snowboarding which, growing up near majestic snowfields, was an entirely viable career choice.
“But at 21 I came to the harsh realisation that I didn’t have what it took to turn professional, she says. “So I enrolled to study industrial design at Victoria [University’s] School of Architecture & Design.”
A radical shift?
“Not so much, really. My parents always encouraged me and my older sister to be creative, and as kids we would sew and embroider, and tinker with dad’s tools. My sister had enrolled in the industrial design course, so I just kind of followed in her footsteps.”
The siblings’ paths diverged when Sabine applied to the edgy Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands, then under the direction of top trend forecaster Li Edelkoort.
Her graduate pieces, 12 years ago, were twofold: a winemaking device that revelled in and revealed the alchemy of the process; and a table composed of transparent glass that turned opaque at the flick of a switch – very now, very ahead of the trend then.
She set up her studio in 2011, and almost immediately began exploring the use of resin and glass.
“In fact, the work you see in the gallery right now is an extension of the research I’ve been carrying out for over a decade now,” she says. “Ten years down the track, and I’m nowhere near done with it.”
Joining the three freestanding cubes and five wall-mounted mirrors on display are an elegantly elongated ovoid resin table in a sudsy dove grey and a series of cylindrical resin stools in variously muted shades.
All the pieces are customisable in Marcelis’ studio in Rotterdam, where a team of “like-minded geeks” is expert in mixing never-before-seen colours and resins of exquisite densities, and casting mirrors by hand. What is most compelling about the objects is the way they carry an aura, a vague haziness around themselves that expands their presence in a room.
NEED TO KNOW
Shadow Light by Sabine Marcelis is at Gallery Sally Dan-Cuthbert in Rushcutters Bay, Sydney, until June 19.