Mumbai-based Studio 8:23’s visual imagination is eclectic and fearless. Depending on the demands of a project, the designers can work the grunge look or create tight-lipped sophistication with consummate ease.
There are many ways in which a design firm can set itself apart. The “pursuit of happiness” could certainly become one of these ideologies. Studio 8:23 set up shop in 2010 in Mumbai, with the partners bringing in an amalgamation of inspirations stretching from the Maximum City to Sydney.
It is apparent that Sameer Raut and Siddhesh Kadam, both University of New South Wales College of Fine Arts graduates, knew exactly how fluid the boundaries of their creativity will be.
The addition of a material workshop to their core studio activities is testimony to this open-minded view of all things, which includes surrealist re-imagination of lines, and finds subtlety in leftover plastic.
The trajectory of this still young studio is landmarked by dramatically different design projects. Their portfolio is a kaleidoscope of such a refreshingly wide range of imagery that you would be forgiven for thinking that you had accidently switched websites.
Three projects amply display the founder duo’s firm grasp on functional practicality and flights of dreamy indulgence. They often aim to build a designer bridge ‘between the extraordinary and the mundane’. Don’t we all?
The heartening difference here is that these intrepid souls succeed, and rather beautifully at that.
High-jumping into the whirlpool of one of the most celebrated creative expression takes courage, Studio 8:23 took that ambitious leap this year at the Kalaghoda art precinct in Mumbai during its famed art festival.
For an open installation called Flower:Bloom, the firm got together used plastic bottles and re-imagined them as totems of our age of decadence.
The bottles were joined together to form “collages” that resembled flowers, and hung from a real tree to form a cluster of strangely ghoulish, but nevertheless striking, display pieces. Flower:Bloom is a symbol of the studio’s sharp observational powers. It wanted to comment on how plastic has become an inextricable part of our lives today. So, it decided to showcase the most common forms of plastic as natural products of a tree, aping and challenging its shape. Point taken!
If Flower:Bloom was Woodstock revisited, Lines 0079 is a homage to Dali (going by what’s occupying this office space of graphic design firm, Umbrella Design, at Kamala Mills, Mumbai). This particular project had to be quirky; to say
Studio 8:23 was commissioned to build a partition wall that would enclose the firm’s director’s cubicle – the one which faces a shiny, life-size replica of a cow whose udders are connected by colourful pipes to something on the lower floor; and a squeaky clean glass facade. How did the assignees up the ante of design here?
They stacked up 53 layers of manually cut, white plywood pieces with translucent acrylic as filling, and bolted them together to form a door/wall that resembles the rib cage of a prehistoric animal. This undulating shell of a partition wall keeps the cubicle secluded, thus serving the primary requirement, but at the same time also looks (almost) incongruous. The designers say that they wanted to build something that could “take on the form of an art piece”. We feel that they have a great sense of humour as well.
With Concrete 0023, Studio 8:23 took many steps away from whimsy and put on garbs of sophistication. Built in Andheri for a fabric design and manufacturing company, at this permanent exhibition/gallery space, Fight Club strikes up a friendship with The Flintstones.
The overall effect of this project is of entering an abandoned mill space, which is now peppered with wildly contrasting tiles and fabric walls. The charm offensive of this space is in its brilliant texturing – the high contrast of polished wood and scruffy concrete is everywhere, off-set by shiny bowl lamps.
The studio manufactured special tiles for this project, and used varying mixes of concrete to create an “uncertain” effect.
Contrary to what impression the titles may be making, there is no secret behind the numbering. Even the studio’s name is a tilt in favour of the cryptic. Ditto for what conspires when a project lands on the team’s drawing board – the designers eschew any magnanimous theories. “There is no specific inspiration we rely on,” says Kadam. Well that’s probably the simplest way of saying that eclecticism rules the roost at this studio!
Text By Shruti Nambiar
Photographs Courtesy 8:23 Studio