There are few stylists and photographers that work within the interiors and lifestyle sector that really shake up the way brands project their image. In fashion clothes are often allowed to take a back seat to the overall artistic idea but this is rarely the case in interiors. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of photographers and stylists who create beautiful images but not many re-invent the styling wheel. Milanese duo, Studiopepe are one creative force working in homewares, furniture and fashion that push the parameters of interiors and product styling as are Shane Schneck and Clara von Zweigbergk who have worked extensively with Danish brand HAY. Dutch duo Maurice Scheltens and Liesbeth Abbenes who work under the name Schelten Abbenes are another and the subject of this post.
Recently hunting for a new rug I came across the Hella Jongerius rug collection for Danskina. Jongerius has been the Design Director at Danskina since 2013 and is widely thought of as a genius with colour. She has of course been the Art Director of colour and materials for Vitra since 2008 and was the designer of the ‘Polder’ sofa where she successfully combined 6 fabrics across the one object. Photographing the work of such a gifted designer requires an equally brilliant photography and styling team and Schelten Abbenes were chosen to shoot the brand's recent campaign which covered rugs not only by Hella Jongerius but by Liset van der Scheer, Marloes Jongen, Karin An Rijlaarsdam and Ulf Moritz.
Captured entirely from an aerial point of view, the shots offer up amazing compositions by combining the rugs as broad strokes of colour while carefully supplementing this with selected furniture pieces that dance about the frame creating dynamism, beauty and sometimes a healthy dose of tension. Each image evokes the rug's aesthetic in a way that is genuinely helpful to the prospective buyer showing how it interacts with furniture pieces. While looking at rugs from above is commonplace, what isn’t so normal is the inclusion of furniture that plays with colour connections and the ‘attitude’ of the rug. The furniture pieces that accessorize the rugs are selected purely as form, shape and colour providers, to help create a beautifully resolved composition. These range from obvious Eames pieces like an LCW chair, to the work of young Dutch studio Muller Van Severen and the wildly graphic 'Bench for Two' by Nanna Ditzel.
The images are so perfect that it seemed very greedy of me not to share them with a wider audience that might otherwise miss out unless they happened to be shopping for rugs at the moment or addicted to fashion and arts magazines like Foam magazine, Dazed & Confused and Pin Up Magazine.
It’s one thing to produce great products as Danish rug manufacturer Danskina do, but its another to create beautiful imagery to market that product and D.d appreciates the companies who go the extra mile and do both - Vitra, Kettal, Sancal, Zanotta, Moustache and Hay are all brands that do this exceptionally well. Designers such as the Bouroullecs create their own amazing visual archive as part of the overall design process. Naturally there is a need for straight product photography but there is also a need for highly creative images which cleverly showcase the product's full potential.
The sharp compositions created by Scheltens Abbenes in the Danskina campaign are made through careful positioning of the rugs, intersected, interrupted and complimented by accessories, lighting and furniture - often just to create additional colour blocks, grids or lines. At other times the forms of these furniture pieces are easily discernible and bring their own unique qualities to the composition.
“They experiment with converting spatial dimensions into flat surfaces and explore intensively photography’s potential for creating illusion. Instead of presenting objects as plain sellable products, they often manipulate and utilize them as building blocks for new compositions”.
From Scheltens Abbenes' artist's statement.
And what of the rugs themselves? Founded in the Netherlands in 1973 by Piet and Ina Van Eiijken, Danskina is now under the joint leadership of fabric houses, Kvadrat and Maharam. The rugs are produced using handmade techniques including, weaving, knotting and tufting, by makers in the Netherlands, Scotland, Germany, Nepal, New Zealand and India.
The distinctive texture achieved by these hand processes is balanced by the development of innovative designs and materials and a unique use of colour - all under the guidance of Dutch designer, Hella Jongerius who has been designing fabrics for Maharam since 2002. Now based in Berlin, Jongerius works with a particular interest in bringing quality materials together with a highly developed sense of colour, texture and form. As a creative director she also brings an adventurous spirit to the brands she works with, championing interesting collaborations such as the one with Scheltens Abbenes.
‘For me, quality resides in best exploiting the tactile and visual qualities of materials and pushing the boundaries of technology. It is found in unusual combinations, in the colours, structures, and surprising details, and it lies in the optimal use of ingenious high-tech and low-tech elements, and the use of tried-and-tested, traditional production techniques.’ Hella Jongerius.
‘Colour contributes to the feeling of comfort and atmosphere, and colour is also an important organisational principle’ Hella Jongerius.
Repetition is an important part of the Scheltens Abbenes approach. They work in an incredibly precise way but with the understanding that subversion of a grid can achieve a special element that pushes the concept considerably further - as in the lone plate that breaks the reflection line in the image for Scholten & Baijings shown above.
Schelten Abbenes' recent imagery for Italian tile brand Mutina shows another preoccupation in their work - manipulated geometry. Shot in late 2015, the campaign combined tiles designed by Patricia Urquiola, the Bouroullecs and Konstantin Grcic that were photographed in a way that blurred the lines between 2 and 3-D. Scheltens Abbenes commercial work often jumps the barrier into the fine art field and has been shown by several cultural institutions around the world, including Galliera Musee de la Mode Paris, Foam Amsterdam, Huis Marseille Amsterdam, The Kunsthal in Rotterdam and The Art Institute of Chicago.
The shots below were done for the 100th Anniversary of Dutch furniture company Pastoe in 2013. Rather than capture some of the brand's iconic objects in the normal fashion, Scheltens Abbenes focused on the extreme detail of repeated components to create highly artistic monochromatic abstracts.
The finished images were shown at Passing Through, an exhibition at the Kunsthal in Rotterdam (below).
While Scheltens Abbenes are kept busy shooting for a long list of commercial clients, they also exhibit their personal photography on a regular basis. They are represented by the following galleries: The Ravestijn Gallery Amsterdam, Limart, Tokyo, Japan and Danziger Gallery, New York.
Danskina rugs are being launched in Australia in mid March by Kvadrat Maharam and high-end furniture retailer, Hub Furniture.