Ludovica and Roberto Palomba
Picasso once said that the artist represented the élite of the servant classes. A hundred years on and my belief is that the artist has been usurped from this rôle by the designer. In the days of Picasso at the beginning of the Twentieth century the world was relatively simple visually. Photography had been around for maybe 60 years, but remained an arcane art form needing a special camera and alchemical darkroom procedures, television hadn’t been invented and the lithograph was the latest in print production.
Now our would is a visual and aural cacophony. We are bombarded with projected imagery, art is a cheap commodity, music reduced to muzak. Most people cannot distinguish between what has eternal values and what is merely a passing style fad. Designers act as translators of the chaos, standing between the juggernauts of mass production and the individual bespoke producer to enable people to select well designed products to fill their world. The designer has now become the élite of the servant classes in turn. It was with delight I heard Roberto Palomba speak of the work of himself and his partner, and wife of 25 years, Ludovica. Interviewed by Vanessa Brady in the Roca Gallery as part of the launch of new items in the Laufen collection, Roberto referred to himself as a servant of the people. Asked a particularly convoluted question he retreated, saying “I’m not intelligent – I am a designer”, and then went on to prove what an intelligent designer he is.
Designers share with artists their ability to tap into their intuition, to trust intuitive leaps, to think sideways rather than in straight logical lines. Roberto talked about his design process and what sounds like a symbiotic relationship with his client, Laufen. Asked about how technical details of what makes a tap work he said he didn’t need to know that, just how big the mechanism was. The latest collection created by his practice moves away from the seemingly all pervading rectilinear shapes to draw from nature, symbolised by the adoption of Celtic names such as ‘menhir’ (a standing stone) echoing forms in a landscape, fittingly for items associated with water.