If you have paid Galerie 5 a visit at 50 Craig Road, there’s no doubt that you’ve spotted a number of sculptural furniture pieces that dot the first level of the three-storey shophouse.
Larger-than-life and with unique rawness in their design, these works are impossible to miss: Greeting you when you step into the gallery is a family of ‘Fidele’ vases. Moving along, parked under a cluster of pendant luminaires is Hardie, a coffee table crafted through a dance between delicate glass and rugged slate. Other iconic pieces are placed throughout the space for you to discover, reflected by mirrors Farouche and Medicis, each featuring unique cuts of stone and different patterns of patina, ensuring that no two pieces are identical.
We spoke with the artisan behind these incredible works, Frédéric Saulou, to discuss the development of his craft and the inspiration behind his pieces, which reflect the natural beauty of its materials.
What draws you to post-industrial materials?
Post-industrial materials have the capacity to tell a story, the story of my territory and the industrial past. I wish to keep this heritage alive like a fragment of a story that can live through time. They are brute and simple materials that become noble with time.
In your opinion, what defines a sculpture?
According to you, what defines a sculpture? Nothing defines a sculpture, it's just what you want to see in it and what you feel when you look at it. I think it's very personal.
How do you know when a project is completed?
I think I could continue a lot of projects, "If an idea or a concept is good, the project must be born." or never finish some. Sometimes it happens. If an idea or a concept is good, the project must be born. But the finality is a question of time and balances. "If an idea or a concept is good, the project must be born."
Frédéric Saulou working on a piece.
Describe your creative process from start to finish.
I often start with an idea that comes from my head, strangely when I'm not working. This idea comes from nowhere or can come from an industrial process, from a material or from my universe. I mature this idea in volume in my head, like a 3D conceptual system.
When I find the right moment, I decide to apply this idea on paper, then in prototype, and I navigate between the two. At the same time, I always think about the material and the production process because they are the ones who will lead the project. I make sure to respect the right balance between the material and the craftsmanship linked to technical modernity. I work in close human and local collaboration with specific craftsmen to find the right path between my sculpture and the process of the craftsmen.
Frédéric Saulou on his creative process
Do you see yourself or your art heading in different directions in the near future?
I will continue with my current direction, since it’s still in the beginning stages for now. Moving forward, I’m trying to develop a more real and even closer approach with the material. I am continuing my apprenticeship in stone carving in my new workshop and I think this will open up new artistic paths, perhaps more sculptural concepts.
The Hardie coffee table, a visual balance struck between delicate glass and raw black slate.
How has your craft evolved since you started?
At first, I worked with two design studios, but very quickly started working for my own studio because I needed to express myself and lead my own projects. I have an applied arts background and approach as well as a more artistic “plastic art” approach. I worked for several furniture companies as well as national and international institutions, and while I still continue to do so, my work has naturally oriented towards a more artistic, auteur approach.
Do you have a personal connection to any of your designs or collections?
Yes, I come from the basin of the Angers region known for these shale and limestone quarries. I was rocked by this heritage. This was the beginning of my “Dome"This was the beginning of my 'Domestiquer' project, a project based on the reconquest and domestication of natural materials from construction."stiquer” project, a project based on the reconquest and domestication of natural materials from construction, and a reintroduction of methodology and materials into a domestic setting. At the time almost all the quarries were closed, and it was an economic and social project to reintroduce these materials from building and construction on another scale, to that of contemporary design. "This was the beginning of my 'Domestiquer' project, a project based on the reconquest and domestication of natural materials from construction."
The Farouche mirror, which reflects other works of art around Galerie 5.
Does any aspect of your heritage affect the way you design or create?
I decided to work with old and complicated materials in order to honour them. This is why my creations adapt to the material and the craftsmen to better respect them, which probably explains why I decided to focus on their primitive and raw nature.
What do you wish to communicate to viewers through your work?
Naturalness. The transmission of knowledge and heritage through furniture that will live and survive over time, which I hope can be passed on from generation to generation, communicated through timeless and natural design.
The message behind Frédéric Saulou's works
Do you have a favourite collection or piece?
Not specifically. However, the Farouche mirror is a masterpiece because it's also the reflection of the project.