by Anmol AhujaJul 30, 2021
“I feel more like a gigantic sponge, or a radar, or a spider in the middle of this huge three-dimensional web. And I keep on being receptive. I think what I am trying to do to myself - and I am talking in a meditative, personal, psychological way - is to keep my channels open.”
As part of a first professional encounter with French designer and artist, Arik Levy, I happened to be a bystanding observer to a conversation featuring him, that married art, architecture and design while a majority of the world remained locked down in the early part of this year. The fond proclivity with which he approached his partner-in-conversation, someone he had never met, was particularly endearing to me. I was then particularly enthused to see how a conversation centred completely on him would pan out, and UNSCRIPTED proved to be the perfectly opportune platform for that. Nearly 80 minutes of Arik Levy, unbarred, unbridled: talking about everything from his quirks, unknown facts about his life, design philosophies, his tactile dreams, and his crystalline sculpting; Levy’s exposition in explaining his beliefs came second only to his enthusiasm in explaining them. With particular visual elucidations ranging from the molecular to the cosmos itself, Levy left us with much to ponder, much to muse, and funnily enough, much to edit.
So, when I say that Levy bridges two worlds, it stands true not only in the context of the professions with blurred boundaries he practices in the daily, but also of the place he hails from, and where he has made his home now. Born in Tel Aviv in Israel, Levy imbibed most of his current talents, including sculpture art, product design, furniture design, industrial design, and even lighting design, quite early, making his first works of art while he was barely stepping into his teens. The ‘definition’ of Arik Levy would be incomplete without exclaiming about his self-proclaimed love for “everything that moves over water, on the water, under water, or is water”. Levy happens to be a profuse “beach bum”, something that his proximity to the sea wherever he had lived helped him nurture: as much so, that the artist’s first work of art was painting a surfboard. Through both humour and pathos, and even the tiniest hint of indignation, Levy narrated his own latent version of the Dickensian Tale of Two Cities throughout the first half of the conversation. Though Levy has moved quite a bit around the globe, his adage about the people centricity of the world remains unchanged. “The world is about people, not its cities, its places, or its restaurants,” he says.
Levy’s designs rightly blur the boundaries between art and utility, assuming forms ranging from fluid like to fabric, from sharply angular and well defined, crystalline in form, to still fluid, yet solid, affirming his sculpting of self expression on whatever medium graces his table at that moment. A topic of particular, peculiar fascination remains Levy’s thought process, and how he keeps all his channels open, “continuing to be receptive”, to pick himself up on days when the creativity reserve runs low. Some of his most well known works of art, including the famous Rockgrowth, Crater, Fusion, Log, Ghost, Totem, along with numerous other paintings and sculptures, are fine testament to that. His most well known products, including Marien152 for Coalesse, Voyage for Vitra, North and Sticks for Vibia, Cocoa Pod for Nestle, StabVase and LightBlock for Danese, and a special watchface for Samsung Gear S3, manifest and profess his continually evolving design journey, flexing his “uncontrolled muscle” of creation.
A recent facet of exploration (following awakening) as we move along with UNSCRIPTED chats has been the designers’ relationship with objects, and their notions of materiality, despite living out a nearly saintly lifestyle. Akin to Mario Trimarchi, Levy traversed the same vein when it came to ownership, and ‘objects’ they designed, professing them to be conduits to a unique relationship with their owner. Empathetically, Levy narrated the story of a used bike in Paris that almost called to him, as he proceeded to buy it by replacing his newly purchased bike, nearly five times the price of the older one. Levy claims to have kept the bike, restoring it a million times, but loving it nonetheless, borrowing it from his son, and taking it for a spin every time he would be in Paris.
Levy, who currently resides in Saint Paul de Vence, has also taken to the zen art of playing the handpan, also tying in to his very famous wish to talk to the Dalai Lama, and to everyone he hasn’t met yet. “When I meet whoever I meet, I am looking for what inspires me. I am not a passive subject,” states Levy. Here’s manifesting that for the renowned designer and artist.
All this and much more: tap on the cover video to view the full conversation.
All photographs © Arik Levy, unless stated otherwise. Images may not be downloaded, copied, reproduced or used in part or whole without obtaining permission. The photographs in this video are not licensed for personal, commercial or public use, or use in the public domain in any form.
Curated by Pramiti Madhavji (Consultant, Content Adviser, STIR), UNSCRIPTED is a STIR-original series of quick-witted video interviews with leading design professionals who give us an undiscovered peek into their lives. A melting pot of quests, revelations and quirks, the series releases a new episode every Sunday as designers reveal unheard and unknown nuggets from their lives, in response to 30 questions.