"Beehive" by Peter Arnoud Bensen
When it comes to art and design the lines can sometimes be blurred. Not as blurry as they are to the lyrical minds of Robin Thicke and Pharrell (although some art can be just as provocative and some design can be just as questionable), but sometimes one leads to the other. The duo behind Art and Design team, PABensen, are a case in point. Their optically challenging and captivating sculptures, prints, installations and creative solutions combine both artistic elements and functionality, inspired by science. The most unique aspect of their work though, might be that they blend these disciplines together so seamlessly that it’s difficult to distinguish where the art begins and the science and design ends.
When you discover that PABensen comprises a commercial diver in oil and gas with a construction background, and an Associate Professor of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, it’s easy to assume that their work is the result of applying mathematics to solve problems. But that would be missing the point. Dutchman, Peter Arnoud Bensen and his Italian wife, Pina Marziliano-Bensen, established PABensen so they could use science to ask questions. While their resulting designs certainly innovate and provide elegant answers, ultimately their motivation is to investigate and invite audiences to interact. In this way, their work truly is art.
A visit to the PABensen studio on the campus of Nanyang Technological University is an eye-opener. The evidence of explorations into the fascinating Fibonacci sequence, like the Golden Heart Sculpture, are thought-provoking and make for a visual feast. As Peter explains, “These things are found in nature and everything in nature has a start and end point. What’s interesting to me is to find the boundaries of where I can go. And the more I push each of those things, the more I discover that everything is connected. That’s where I love to work.”
“Golden Heart Sculpture” by Peter Arnoud Bensen
The Illusion sculpture series was inspired by Peter’s experience as a deep-sea diver, where he was captivated by the changing shape of subsea structures at different depths. This distortion and manipulation of reality has been realised through wood and metal to create objects that seemingly move and sway as you alter your position. They can be scaled 2 to 8 times their original size, but never fail to attract the eye and mind no matter what size they are. Umbilical is a particular favourite with its story of being a representation of the cords carrying Peter vital elements while on deep-sea missions.
“Umbilical” by Peter Arnoud Bensen
Despite the visually precise results and the obvious scientific influence in the work of PABensen, it’s fascinating to learn that it all starts by hand. “I begin by drawing. This is how I can reach that moment of flow – the place that psychologist, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi describes when you are completely immersed in creation,” says Peter.
Once he has explored an idea on paper he shares it with Pina, who turns it on its head. “It’s always Pina that innovates and suggests other ways to see things. One day I took two pieces of wood left over from making the logo on our studio door - that Pina had originally asked me to set aside so she could make a cupcake stand to use at home. Instead, I created this sculptural lighting piece. I didn’t know where it was going at first and then Pina suggested adding fibre optic lights and directional speakers controlled by an app. The result is the SociaLight. She never mentioned the cupcake stand again!”
“SociaLight” by PABensen
For PABensen, what begins as art sometimes leads to a sophisticated and original design outcome, like the SociaLight or the Fan Lamp, which is a beautiful yet functional extrapolation of the binary star system. Lately, they’ve been working on their Cube-It invention, a system of interconnecting blocks that can be applied to everything from construction to toys; and just like the dichotomy of art and design that they harness so well, the possibilities for Cube-It allow PABensen to connect creativity and commerce, and channel any commercial success back into creating art.
“Cube-It” by PABensen
This idea of things coming full circle seems to be the overarching theme in PABensen’s work. Starting by hand, Peter often returns to them to create prints based on his original sculpture concepts. Perhaps, he’s right; maybe everything is connected, including art and design.
"The Artist" and "The Scientist"
To chat more about art and design get in touch with the clever people at Addicted Art Gallery and PABensen who live for this stuff!
Written by Skye Wellington