The world of French-born, Scotland-based artist and designer is filled with wonder, surrealism and uncanny practicalities. In it, abstract organic shapes combine to take on meanings or functions that elevate otherwise mundane moments in everyday life. For her solo exhibition at Custom Lane, titled Flat Versions, Walac chose to explore the potential of under-appreciated domestic spaces including entryways and corridors. The artist created a range of collages to enliven these interstitial areas, along with furniture that provides useful surfaces on which to sit, hang a coat or place your keys.
I have a sense of a universe I would like to inhabit and it can take many forms. The outcomes can be very fluid, ranging from collages to sculpture, furniture, pastries and fashion.
The artworks start out as shapes drawn on the computer or as hand-cut pieces of card that Walac uses to compile simple black-and-white collages. She says the digital drawings, in particular, lack any sense of scale until they are brought into the physical world, at which point they could be cut from any material and used to create anything from collages to furniture or even architecture. “I have a sense of a universe I would like to inhabit and it can take many forms,” the artist explains. “The outcomes can be very fluid, ranging from collages to sculpture, furniture, pastries and fashion. As long as it can be cut, it can happen.”
Among the pieces included in the Flat Versions collection are shelves, coatracks, side tables and a chair. Each object incorporates useful and versatile surfaces, although the functions are not immediately obvious. This idea of creating furniture from flat elements informed the project’s title, which references the word used in Scotland for an apartment – the setting Walac sees as being most suitable for these pieces.
The furniture’s forms and functions evolve during the design process, as Walac intuitively combines the shapes in three dimensions. A further element of chance is introduced as she makes use of the negative areas and offcuts produced by removing shapes from wooden sheets. “I have a preconceived idea on the computer but it always changes as I assemble the components,” Walac points out. “This way I always have an element of surprise and it gives me flexibility as I work in the studio.”
I really try to fight the generic aesthetic of mass production which I find insanely boring
The seemingly random shapes are informed by a wide range of references, including modern art, Victorian curiosities, witchcraft, topiary, Art Nouveau architecture and the patterns made by fog in the Scottish countryside. Walac creates compositions she finds visually pleasing before introducing meaning and names to the works, such as Reach for the Moon and An Arm Around the Legs. Some of the shapes from the collages reappear in the functional objects, which are intended as the antithesis of contemporary high-street furniture. “I really try to fight the generic aesthetic of mass production which I find insanely boring,” she adds.
Flat Versions presents an insight into Walac’s mind and methods, which focus on finding joy in randomness. She tries to distance herself from the idea of ‘design’, which fails to capture the artistic approach that informs her projects. With this exhibition, Walac says she hopes to provoke a conversation about how to create furniture and interiors that feel more special and unique. “I think we can sum it up as design that creates an atmosphere,” she concludes.