-ISH by Matteo Fogale and Laetitia de Allegri


13 September 2014

-ISH at Shoreditch’s Herrick Gallery is a play on illusion and expectations.

Developed by designers Matteo Fogale and Laetitia de Allegri for the London Design Festival (LDF), the exhibition is a display of objects created using materials that mimic the appearance of stone, yet which are all produced from recycled and reclaimed post-industrial waste. There are marblus and denimite – resin-sealed materials made from reclaimed denim and cotton – that are sanded to look like white carrara marble and blue sodalite, and then there is slate-ish, a paper-laminate that is split in the middle to create irregular surface ridges and flint-like textures.

The exhibition appeals on two levels. Primarily, there is a joyful trompe-l'œil effect. Slate-ish shelves look hard and dense, but are soft, have sufficient flex to bow under pressure, and will not shatter if dropped. Similarly, there are curved bowls and mirrors made from denimite and marblus (a first for the materials, which are typically only used as flat surfaces), the origins of these materials as waste textiles only becoming apparent when you see mulch-like material samples that reveal them in their raw form.

Beyond this sense of subversion are the uses to which the materials have been put, and this is the project’s greatest strength. Marblus and denimite have the appearance of stone, yet are lightweight enough such that they can dramatically cantilever as table tops. Ditto, slate-ish shelves have the appearance of slate, yet with none of the brittleness: the material is immediately put to load-bearing use.

-ISH plays with and subverts our material expectations in a way that is witty and grabbing. But the exhibition is satisfying because of the conceptual rigour with which this subversion has been executed. The -ISH materials are immediately set to accomplishing things that the genuine materials on which they are based never could.