Ian Collings’ Study of Life Force Culminates in an Exploration of Movement

The furniture designer-turned-sculptor brings stone to life with “Movements,” in which he embraces the influence of time on form as an exploration of collective consciousness.

In 2018, then-furniture designer Ian Collings took a hiatus from his day job, re-emerging three years later as a deft full-time sculptor. His work, which has been exhibited on both coasts, as well as NYCxDesign with The Future Perfect and Blum & Poe, has become a highlight in a market full of uniquely captivating collectible design objects and talented makers. 

“Refigured,” Collings’ most recent outing with The Future Perfect in New York City, featured a series of monumental functional objects rendered from hundreds of pounds of striking orange calcite and marble. Dazzling as they were, even the side tables, made of a fairly modest 165 pounds of solid stone, seemed immovable; it was easy to imagine the obelisk-like totems standing tall as static monuments to good taste in collectors’ pristine homes. The show also featured a small selection of Collings’ sculptural wall hangings. Smaller, by necessity, than their counterparts, the undulating faces of these marble sculptures recall the evolution of topographies carved out by the ebb and flow of the ocean over time.

Collings continues this close study of momentum in his latest exhibition, “Movements,” which is currently on view at The Future Perfect in San Francisco. Instead of a series of static objects arranged in a room, “Movements” comes alive. Objects in green and pink marble, black basalt, and red travertine seem to scuttle up walls, across display plinths, and draw the viewer’s eye every which way. At its core, “Movements” allows the viewer to see the allure of stone much as Collings does: “Not just a convenient metaphor for time and transformation, it can be seen as transformation itself.”

Surface spoke with Collings about the continuously evolving impact of nature on his practice and perspective.

Tell us about the name of this show. What does the title “Movements” evoke for you, and how does it relate to these pieces?

Transformation is a theme central to my work. “Movements,” as an extension, is a show about deep time, shapeshifting bodies and the mediums which (life)forces inhabit and occupy. In this sense, stone is not just a convenient metaphor for time and transformation, it can be seen as transformation itself. The matter and energy held in these rocks have literally been, and in many ways still are, the star, the primordial soup, the mountain, the river, the plant, and the animal. In this way, “Movements” evokes something much deeper for me: the layers of information and intelligence that move through matter as a vehicle. The show and its forms are a way to explore the repository of collective consciousness, and to find the shape of transformation itself.

How does it relate to “Refigured,” which you talked about with Surface last year for Designer of the Day?

Both bodies of work explore a similar theme, united also by the material. However, with “Refigured,” I found myself drawn to creating in a more iterative mode, while “Movements” has a roving sensibility and departs from the literal in favor of exploring more metaphysical attributes of the material and their likeness to the transformational movements of my own psychology.

Tell us about the diversity of different stone types and also the diversity of scale in this collection. How have you used them to create a visual representation of transformation?

A variety of stones make an appearance in “Movements”—red travertine, blue quartzite, marble, basalt. In some cases, they represent different modes of transformation through the story of how they emerge into existence; some are formed deep inside the Earth from magma, others are formed from already existing stones as they are subjected to heat and pressure. On the other hand, the color and form of the stones become symbols for themes such as the subconscious or the elements of fire and air. All point back to the multilayered and iterative nature of matter. 

This exhibition contains 33 new works; did you explore any new forms, types of stones, sizes, or colors that you haven’t previously worked with?

I’ve enjoyed seeing how the stone wall hangings have evolved over the years, and this group is particularly exciting for me. The black ones specifically have revealed a shifting direction and inspired new ways of relating to the work. In addition, the more time I spend with the mountains and rivers where I live, and continued time I retreat to the rainforest, the less separation I feel with those environments. Their forms begin coming into my work more strongly and in a more representational way. 

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