By Andy Jones for WUW Magazine
“We live conditioned by the Pixel: The icon of our time”
Christian Zuzunaga is as philosophical and profound as that statement. Known for his exceptional textile work, this gentleman, who hails from Barcelona, certainly knows how to make a pallet work. By using a plethora of beautiful colours and structured shapes, his creations transform and enlighten any furniture they grace.
Having joined forces with numerous big names, such as Ligne Roset and Moroso, WUW caught up with this distinct designer to discuss his poetic and sumptuous work, and discovered that his striking and colorful patterns offer modern significance as well as aesthetics.
WUW: Hello Cristian. How are you today?
CZ: Very well thank you.
WUW: You are a man who dips his brush in many forms of art, from Fashion and Furniture to Typography and Graphic Design. When did you realise you had a talent for these many different forms of art?
CZ: It all started with on my Foundation course. It opened up many new directions and a devotion for research and historical context. All the work I have been producing since then is based on concept and questioning. Biology, Psychology, Philosophy, Anthropology and Architecture are my main inspirational forces.
I started using photography as the way to conduct and express myself, but soon I learnt different techniques such as Screen-printing or Letterpress, which helped me to place the emphasis on the subject. Using such techniques enabled me to develop further an existing latent passion to visually represent. It allowed me to experiment hands-on, and it leaves room for mistakes to learn from. Errors involve all possibilities at once, allowing you to question, to properly see and to aim at perfecting. At the same time, random and unexpected things happen which allow your imagination to wonder and that is what allows you to evolve.
WUW: You where born in Barcelona, yet you ended up studying and obtaining a degree from The London College Of Communication in 2005, and then further gaining an MA in Communication Art and Design from the Royal College Of Art. How did you end up studying in the UK? Do you think that by studying in a foreign country hindered your work, or helped focus your talents further?
CZ: In 2001 I decided to move to London to study, initially only for a Foundation course, but soon I realised that I found the route I was looking for, so I had to stay to carry on my studies. By living in such an amazing and unique city and having a structure to live for, I started to travel through the projects I was working on. Studying in a foreign country enabled me to centre my energy, directing it in the right way. I met many obsessive individuals with similar ideals and ideas, and that helped me to grow and shape myself.
In UK, I found a more practical way of studying and learning, less theoretical and conceptual than in my native Spain. Here you had room for all kinds of experimentation. I focused my energy in quality and not quantity.
WUW: A lot of your work focuses on digital pixels, colours and patterns. Is this something you have always been fascinated with, or something that progressed whilst studying?
CZ: It did progress while studying. At first I had a negative predisposition towards new digital technologies as they were virtual and didn’t include the physical qualities one needs to understand, evolve and grow. When using digital technology, it is so easy to delete an undesirable image or design, so you erase the trace that allowed you to realise and progress.
In 2006, while studying an MA at the Royal College of Art, I continued my search, trying to understand the present moment we live in. During my stay in Shanghai I felt the power of the new and emerging China. I realised that the world as we Westerners know it and promote it, is not a sustainable model. In Shanghai, I fully understood that we live in the digital era and the use of computers and the Internet has favoured a gradual and global transformation in the way we perceive time and space.
After this powerful experience, I changed my way of working. I started to embrace digital technologies, as they were more representative of the present moment. So, what used to be squares and rectangular shapes printed in paper using old/past techniques became coloured digital pixels, which were applied into different surfaces and materials.
WUW: I read your work is based on abstraction and essence. It deals with gravity, randomness, repetition, time and space. Tell us more.
CZ: In 2004, I discovered letterpress. Through this new medium I realised endless links with graphic design, photography and architecture. I started to experiment by visually representing conceptual ideas and thoughts. That is when I started to develop a new visual direction based on squares and geometric shapes that was going to change my life in many directions at once. My main influences were Russian Constructivism, Cubism, Bauhaus, and De Stijl movements. Artists such as Paul Klee, Juan Gris, Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondrian, Kazimir Malevich and Wassily Kandinsky introduced me to colour, shape structure and composition, while helping me to realise how important it is to place the emphasis of a given art/design piece in relation to historical concept and context.
WUW: Using architecture inspires you and gives you a unique visual vocabulary. Where can we see this in your work?
CZ: It is through architecture that the first signs of a shift in the ways of thinking can be more easily appreciated. Supermodernist architecture seems to be combining old ideas and concepts – borrowed from the Modernist period – with the use of the newest technologies available. It embraces interaction, imagination, sensations and feelings through the use of colour and light, while favouring a psychological discourse that is based on the individual experience subjectivity.
We live in the digital/virtual era where computers and the use of Internet are shaping our ways of seeing, thinking, working and communicating. That is affecting the way we relate to the world while altering our perception of time and space, which is creating the illusion that the world is accessible and reachable with a single click of our mouse. We are framed, constantly framed by the shape of our computer screens and digital devices. We live conditioned by the Pixel: the icon of our time.
WUW: Tell us a bit about what the process is like for you when starting a new design.
CZ: I literally zoom into images taken by myself in search of their pure essence; its unique internal structure that makes possible for that individual image to exist. During this process I find unexpected colourful combinations and structures that create amazing visual patterns and shapes. Many of them relate to shapes found in the environment. Pavements, buildings and structural shapes, anything really.
WUW: Why have you specifically chosen two types of shapes the square and the rectangle to form your designs?
CZ: I have a vision that is borrowed from the existing urban environment and therefore I feel that I have the responsibility to try to give back what I take from it. I use architecture and the way a city is constructed to understand today’s present reality.
WUW: Has it been hard since leaving University to gain recognition as a designer?
CZ: What’s been the hardest is personal development and to remain focussed, with a clear goal in mind. The aim is that your work speaks for yourself and that it reflects the present while questioning it towards a better future.
WUW: Do you have any advice for future designers?
CZ: To carry on working hard on concept and context. To explore, to be thorough, to read, to experience the human condition as much as possible, aiming at becoming whole as a person. Have positive goals that involve and include others and not just egotistic/individualistic predispositions towards personal gain or recognition.
WUW: What’s the dream?
CZ: One of my aims is to bring colour to daily life and, through it evoke positive feelings and emotions. By doing so, I want to complement the thinking function by inspiring feeling through work. I want to counterbalance present unconscious, dark and negative ways of seeing, and therefore of thinking, by embracing and exalting personal imagination, interaction and subjectivity.