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Blurring the Boundaries: Maarten Van Severen

By Francesca Moutafis on January 27, 2017 in Architecture, Art, Design
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The indefinable icon: Maarten Van Severen is a ubiquitous figure in the creative realm, but his work is hard to pigeon-hole.

Born in Belgium and trained in architecture at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent, Maarten Van Severen is noted for employing simplicity, functionality and modern material use to his catalogue of work. His status as a design icon is cemented through products such as the ‘.03 chair’ and the ‘low chair’ which through relentless prototyping, smart materiality and an unpretentious aesthetic place Severen firmly on the design map.

Initial glances at Severns work, it reads as minimalist, pure in form, and vehemently unornate: simple clean lines with an innate understanding of the materials employed and the importance of ergonomics. Severen is clearly part of the Mies Van de Rohe “Less is More” school of thought. True aesthetic simplicity, his pieces suggest incompletion, his chairs appearing in the midst of the prototyping stage, yet to transition, and waiting upon embellishment. However, these simple shells disguise a clever use of both component and material that render the object ergonomically superior. One singular sheet of metal is transformed into a chair through eight simple kinks in the material, all with an added element of side-ways stacking, achievable through Severn’s constant prototyping and desire for constant improvement, even post production.  

This said, Severen’s work is, through his own admission, particularly indefinable. It jumps uncertainly between the boundaries of conceptual and functional; minimalist and maximalist; ordinary and rare. He is a self-proclaimed “non-designer”, having a disdain in the term, and identifying as a maximalist. Through his works incomplete aesthetic, conceptuality is suggested, whilst through meticulous ergonomic attention, we are sold pure functionality.

Perhaps that is the beauty of his work and the reason for it’s appeal: it transcends definability, appearing as something wholly new. As Geert Bekaert’s says in his essay titled “Hors d’age”;

“In reality, although it rejects every established category, Van Severen’s oeuvre lays claim to an eminent place in our contemporary world. In a world of speed, constant change and frenetic communication, it is slow moving, lasting and silent. Hardness is overcome with softness. In the midst of excess it tends towards simplicity. Against all the bustle it cultivates a sense of insignifigance.”

To find out more about Maarten Van Severen’s work visit www.maartenvanseveren.be

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Francesca MoutafisView all posts by Francesca Moutafis