A brief introduction
The high-end design pieces Jungblut creates testify to an authentic approach to natural resources and reflect his ambition to transcend the boundaries between the interior and the exterior, between form and functionality, and between artistic object and design product.
Editorial text written by Guus van Engelshove, curator contemporary arts
The modern era is typified by radical shifts in technology, industry and culture. Increasingly, we ask ourselves where form and function meet and how the two relate to one another. In a similar vain, the borders between culture and nature have lately been continuously redefined and reassessed, testifying to a tension between mass-production and craftsmanship, and raising questions about the contemporary meaning of artistry, labour, auto-education and DIY-mentalities.
The genesis of the development of designer and artist Max Jungblut (1966, Maastricht) can best be traced back to his residency at one of the most notorious artist squats of Maastricht, named the VendEx – an old dilapidated warehouse on the outskirts of the city, where he created his first studio setting. The VendEx, a grey building in the middle of a former industrial site, might seem detached from his contemporary practice, but laid the foundation of his artistic approach ever since. Working in the centre of the rubble of a capitalist and industrial society, Jungblut developed a fascination to turn the raw and harsh aesthetics of the building into a new, more natural, habitable and inviting environment, by using its old materials to transform the interior design of the former warehouse. In so doing, he welcomed a new and widely varied community of inhabitants and visitors alike, changing the ‘big-business’-look of the building into a heart-warming context for a new generation of upcoming creative and artistic talents.
It is here where Jungblut first started to mediate on the importance of the interior; as a place of exchange, of meeting with kindred spirits, of working together. In line with these thoughts, he transformed the interior of the VendEx into a place where people would meet and interact in new and innovative ways. An interior characterised by open spaces, an open planning, and functional ways of being together.
Towards the new
In 2011, when the VendEx was destined to be demolished, Max Jungblut – after a number of detours – eventually found a new steady home and studio in the Beatrixhaven of Maastricht. Noteworthy, again a site in the centre of an industrial site, of a maker-community, of an environment in which he could mirror the industrial with its natural counterpoise. Jungblut’s new pieces, now avoid of a squad context, started to focus more on its materials, using primarily materials that had had previous lives. Tile laths, widely used in the construction business, and often discarded, became a prime source and medium through which to create new artefacts with a longer lifespan, resulting in pieces like The Entrance (2010) and Untitled I (2012). Through his aesthetic remodelling of these materials, he increasingly aimed to give them their original, organic appearance back.
At this time, the designs also start to introduce the organic, round forms that will characterise the designs of Jungblut throughout his further work, highlighting the love of the designer for craftsmanship, as well as the honesty towards the materials he works with. In more than one way, these new works can be considered a reflection of the designer’s quest for a new aesthetics, in which nature becomes both the resource and the end product of high-end design pieces. It becomes apparent that the process of finding such a new aesthetics has increasingly been incorporated into to the work, which itself is constructed around the narrative of a journey. In the contrast between its ever growing scale and the timidity of its fine lines, the works unfold a story of exploration, where ideas are able to grow freely and organically. The lines within these works diverge, meet, connect, separate, and follow their own path again.
In a doubled reflection of Jungblut’s working method, this puts the functionality of the material in its new existence into question again. Once belonging to nature, the basic components of the works were used in the industrial construction of roofs, after which they would be discarded and thrown out. In their metamorphosis into design objects, the gap between nature and industry is narrowed through the artisanship of the working-process and the organic expression of the resulting pieces. With the introduction of the grid and lines, it opens up the question whether the final work should be approached in utilitarian terms or experiential ones. Far more than simply being ‘objects’, these works are able to activate memory and interpretation, through which they can take multiple forms and are able to tell many stories.
Next to blurring the lines between functionality and artistic experience, Jungblut’s works address the gap between the private domain of the interior and the public domain of nature, questioning whether the pieces bring the outdoors indoors or vice versa. They express the desire to bring the laborious process of interior design closer to more natural processes, and introduce a point where these two extremes might meet.
Into the void
The latest works by Jungblut present a new development in the long line of woodworks the artist has produced, which can be typified as an exploration of the boundaries between the practical functions of furniture, and the pure aesthetic forms of the autonomous art object. Within his newest pieces, the artist clearly embarks on a new phase in his research, departing with any references to functionality and instead focusing on the object-as-art.
Although the resulting pieces are still reminiscent of earlier works, Jungblut has radically inverted their outwards appearance into sculptural, organic forms that show his investigation into new, spatial designs, while the characteristic use of wood and the curbed movements within the pieces still clearly show the signature of the artist and firmly place them within his long-term series.
By going beyond the functionality of a furniture piece, this new development invites new narratives and multiple readings, and as such, seems to position Jungblut’s artistic practice within an acute actuality, alluding to current (foreign) affairs, heightened global tensions, and the desire for a better world. In a second reading, the work also seems to reconcile the dichotomy between the art object and the furniture piece, which can be seen as the red thread throughout Jungblut’s oeuvre.
Stark sinuous lines
Wood, the aroma of it is ubiquitous. You smell it, see it and can feel it; you can even taste it in the air, for every surface is covered with shavings. Upon entering the atelier, there is no mistaking; Max Jungblut is an artisan. Yet, his craftsmanship extends far beyond the creation of mere commodities. Indeed, it appears that Jungblut is driven by the idea of wresting processed wood free of it is commodity status and bring it back together to reach a more natural state. Especially his current work lets us discover the smooth, sometimes chaotic and yet always organic forms, predominant in nature. Jungblut creates a space for his materials to become artifacts not of human made perfection. Strikingly the imperfections and the unevenness of the artifacts display a form of natural perfection.
All pieces by Atelier Jungblut breathe the same love for nature. It is the stark contrast between industrialized wood and the natural forms which should be understood as the red line we can follow throughout Jungblut’s work. Technologized forms, modern and minimalistic in their appearance are brought back in nature’s sinuous lines. While every artifact presents itself in a light wooden brown, the spectator experiences a revelation when closer examining the actual flow and diversity of color each artifact has to offer. Here again, the artist lets nature to speak for itself as the colors and shades which evolve are not intentionally structured nor ordered but are a result of the arbitrary setting of the material in use.
Many of the artifacts we can observe may still be understood in an actual use context. At the same time, the dichotomy between sculpture and means of everyday usage and that of conceptual and pragmatic is not far from the observer’s sensation. Jungblut continuously discovers new forms in these sculptures and by remarkably straightforward configurations allows the observer to follow his thought process. A table which might have served as mere means for human consumption is now brought back into the smooth gentle shape of nature, turned upside down and thus becomes a sculpture alienated from its former context.
The reconciliation, an eternal communication between two minds brought to the fore by the artists’ interpretation, allows us to understand the multistability of an object at hand. The former table, which has been freed of its inherent program of action, now becomes an object of sensation.
The artist Max Jungblut fascinates by displaying the interplay and inherent relation between technology, nature and art and challenges us to look beyond the use context and realize new states of perfection.