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December 9, 2019
At Design Miami/, Gemfields debuted its collaboration with Sebastien Leon, “GEOCHROM.” The multi-disciplinary Los Angeles-based artist designed an installation that celebrates rubies and emeralds—precious gemstones, responsibly sourced by Gemfields in Africa.
A gradient backdrop of red to green is complemented by abstract paintings, gem-inspired glass lighting sculptures, and a display of natural crystal formations. Leon was approached to work with Gemfields, sharing their story with the creative audience of Design Miami/. “It was an interesting conceptual starting point, because rubies and emeralds are opposite colors,” said the artist, giving us a tour of the project this week. “In our eyes, we have receptors that either see red or green, they can’t really see red and green at the same time. I thought that was an interesting start for the installation.”
A lot of Leon’s artistic practice is based on geology, which he sees as the clock of the earth. Throughout the booth, a range of hues of red and green are played with, mimicking the variety of colors found in Gemfields’ Zambian emeralds and Mozambican rubies. “I love geology, and I find such beauty in the geometry that you can see in crystals and gemstones. I wanted to replicate these patterns into some objects that feel like they could have been made by nature,” he said.
Whitewall spoke more with Leon about presenting “GEOCHROM” with Gemfields, and the fascinating conversations he’s had with fairgoers on color, geometry and time.
WHITEWALL: How have you seen visitors to Design Miami/ respond to “GEOCHROM”?
SEBASTIEN LEON: People go to so many things this week—Art Basel and Design Miami/—so I wanted to capture people’s attention by doing this drastic gradation of colors. There’s usually a sequence of things people see. First, they stop because of the striking gradation. Then they look at the video with the documentary paralleling Gemfields’s world and my process of making the pieces. Then they are attracted by the colorful paintings and contrast with the wall. Then they see the glass sculptures which complement the paintings, and then they see the gemstones and have an understanding of how they connect with the rest of the work. I think it’s a nice story and entry point to the world of gemstones.
WW: How did you see the installation in conversation with the rest of the fair?
SL: This year, there is a lot of interest in natural design and design that is inspired by nature. And that’s true, as well, in our expression. In that sense, we belong to the movement of design here.
And the gemstones are so connected to where they form naturally in the earth. These emeralds from Zambia are really beautiful because they have a different hue—they are more blue. It’s interesting to see that every gemstone looks a particular way according to where they are from in the world. I found the provenance very beautiful.
WW: Is there an aspect of this project you’ll bring back to your studio in Los Angeles?
SL: Yes! It’s the first time I worked with glass and it’s been a revelation. I love glass blowing and I love the process. It’s a little mysterious and I find it is really a battle. It’s very physical. It’s hot, it’s heavy, and you and the glass are in a constant dialogue with the piece you are making.
WW: What do you enjoy about making installations such as “GEOCHROM” that interact with such a wide and public audience?
SL: I’ve always thought that you can find art everywhere and that art should be everywhere. There are different levels of reading a piece. The immediate reaction is important, but there should be many ways of understanding a work. I always want that in the work that I do, but in this instance, I wanted to have the striking element of color as an immediate way of reacting. I want people to get a better understanding of the gemstones, because I find it so beautiful and the story of Gemfields so incredible. I always look for that.
To learn more about responsibly sourced colored gemstones, visit Gemfields.