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December 8, 2019
The Los Angeles–based artist Sebastien Leon is more attached to the concept than the medium. He creates installations, sculpture, painting, furniture, music, video, and more, thanks to inspiration from the logic of the cosmos— the formation of the earth, the nature of time and space, the physical manifestation of sound, and of course, the place of life in all of this.
Crystal formations have been a specific point of departure for Leon in his paintings and sculpture, which naturally led to a collaboration with Gemfields, the world leader in responsibly sourced colored gemstones.
Drawn to the beauty of rubies and emeralds, and our eye’s perception of their color, Leon has created an installation entitled “Geochrom,” incorporating, light, sound, and crystalline structures for Gemfields, on view at Design Miami/ this week.
WHITEWALL: Can you tell us how you came to be familiar with Gemfields?
SEBASTIEN LEON: I am fascinated by crystal formations, because of their beauty, their mathematical logic, and because of the way light illuminates their core. Whether it is malachite, fluorite, pyrite, bismuth, I often use the shapes of crystals in my sculptures, and even project their structures onto my paintings.
I became familiar with Gemfields as I was looking into emeralds, gemstones that take around 500 million years to form. I was mostly familiar with emeralds from Brazil, but learned that some of the largest stones come from Africa. That’s when I discovered Gemfields, who produce 25 percent of the world’s emeralds, mainly through Zambia. They are also the main supplier of rubies, sourcing roughly half the rubies worldwide. Emeralds and rubies are considered the finest gemstones, so it is an honor to be working with Gemfields.
WW: What was the inspiration behind the installation, “Geochrom”?
SL: I started with the realization that rubies and emeralds are opposite colors: red and green. In our eyes, we have three kinds of cones allowing us to see colors, and one of them is a green/red photoreceptor. It is impossible for our eyes to simultaneously detect pure green and pure red. It is one or the other. So I decided to play with this dichotomy as the core of the installation, using a gradation to go from one end to the other, creating the ultimate contrast. I have called my installation “Geochrom,” as in “geo” (the earth) and “chrom” (colors).
WW: Can you tell us about the hanging sculptures you are creating, as well as the tabletop piece?
SL: I designed three glass pieces for the installation: two large pendants transpierced by colored LED tubes, and a tabletop sound sculpture using a transducer speaker. Transducers transmit sonic vibrations to a surface through a coil, basically using matter to propagate sound. I created the music with composer Romain Strugala, using bold elemental sounds.
As for colors, one pendant is green with red light, another one is red with green light, and the sound sculpture is treated with a dichroic green-to-red finish. All the pieces are inspired by the geometry of crystal formations, of course.
WW: Can you tell us about the two paintings you will make on wood panels?
SL: My paintings always bear a strong geological element, so I thought it would make sense to include them in the installation: a green painting in the red area, and vice versa.
WW: What impression are you hoping to give visitors to the installation?
SL: I have been going to Art Basel and Design Miami/ for many years, and the volume of art and design showcased can be overwhelming! So, first, I want my installation to catch people’s attention, using this idea of color contrast. But I also wanted to bring them in through my take on geology and precious stones. I am naturally inspired by the world of Gemfields, from the excavation process to the refinement of the gemstones, so it should feel like a natural collaboration.
WW: What are you looking forward to seeing and doing in Miami outside of the fairs?
SL: I’ll be at the pool.
To learn more about responsibly sourced colored gemstones, visit Gemfields.