Credit: Fiona Susanto/Courtesy of Ryan McGoldrick

Neither Ryan McGoldrick nor Kate Banazi say that their work consciously invokes a sense of ‘Australian-ness’, and yet a sense of place seems as integral to the results of their finished collaboration as their individual contributions do.

Umbra, a series of sculptural wall lights exhibited as part of the Australian design showcase Local Milan at Salone del Mobile, is very much a collaboration of two autonomous halves working in union, and yet in its execution it evokes so much more.

For McGoldrick, who is currently based in Germany, the concept was about “the process behind the manipulation and control of light, density and reflection”; for Banazi, who practices from a studio in Sydney, it was “an extension of her hand silkscreen printed perspex and paper artwork which reference identity, interlocking shapes, relationships and shadows cast”. The lights’ aluminium shades were hand spun in Mittagong and hand finished at the workshop facilities in the University of Canberra. And with Umbra’s exhibition debut in Milan, another component in its story is introduced through an invitation to interact with its audience.

In many ways, it’s a work that tells a tale of two (if not four) cities. Below, McGoldrick and Banazi reflect on the process of creating and exhibiting Umbra.

The work
Ryan: “The piece came about from an invitation from Local Design for us to collaborate. Using Kate’s two dimensional silkscreen art as the basis, we manipulated and distorted forms and added a light source to create an illuminated piece. It was important that the juxtaposition of our two different practices and personalities were visible and complimentary without compromising our individual voices. Through its assembly and simplicity with an interactive, customisable element, it references back to my previous work.

Umbra was made from various processes using local manufacturers, with Kate working out of Sydney and Ryan utilising the University of Canberra’s workshop facilities. We tapped into the extensive knowledge of Tom Skeehan and F!NK to help build and refine the final design. The design of this piece is original, with the printed acrylic pieces referencing Kate’s existing sculpture work in paper and perspex.”

Kate: Umbra is an extension of my silkscreened work onto paper and perspex. It’s very much in keeping with my interest in light and shadow and their interactions with colour alongside the emphasis on the hand that created being evident.”

Credit: Fiona Susanto/Courtesy of Ryan McGoldrick and Kate Banazi

The show
Ryan: “I was fortunate enough to be in Milan for the design week this year, so it was great to gauge reactions from visitors to the exhibition. There was great interest in the piece and people were intrigued by the story of the collaboration. People wanted to touch the piece and change the configuration, which was nice to see. As it can be rotated on a central axis, it allows for a change in the feeling of lightness and density with different shadows cast.

“It was a great experience to be able to present work alongside the Local Design group and to be able to converse about the work with some of the best Australian designers whose opinions we both respect and consider.”

At left, a piece from Umbra, a body of work created in collaboration between Ryan McGoldrick and artist Kate Banazi, pictured left
Credit: Fiona Susanto/Courtesy of Kate Banazi

The discoveries
Ryan: “In the design district 5VIE, [I discovered] a showing of eight alumni from a Swedish design school. Their exhibition was intimate but very playful, I instantly smiled as soon as I walked in and I love it when design makes you feel something. They had pieces on show such as glass traffic safety cones and a park bench that the wooden rails had been cushioned and upholstered in red velvet.”

Kate: “My vicarious trip to Milan was done mainly through Instagram, so the beautiful glass totems of Luca Nichetto for Salviati, Voie lights by Sabine Marcelis with BlocStudios and I know I’m biased but the incredibly elegant vases of of Anna at ACV Studio, a peer from Local Design.”

Credit: Fiona Susanto/Courtesy of Ryan McGoldrick and Kate Banazi

The Takeaway
Ryan: “I hope to be more prolific with design exploration and concepts. At times it’s easy to get caught up in thinking about every detail about your design and aligning it for ease of production. Whilst obviously important, it can be a crippling to the progression of any design if you start limiting what you can and can’t do. Access to manufacturing and cost limitations are crucial but an important part of design is how it evokes emotion and how it will be utilised. These are areas that can be explored and revised later at production refinement and something that was very evident this year in Milan was the amount of exhibitors that had amazing ideas and concepts on show.

Kate: “I intend to explore scale and different mediums to build on ideas inspired from this collaboration into my future three dimensional work and see where it takes me. It’s been an interesting collaboration and one that pushed me to deliver an end result conceived before the piece was physically created – a very different process to the often intuitive way that I am able to work. The collaboration has made me appreciate those structural constraints and limitations, whilst also making me keen to further explore the use of reclaimed and recycled substrates within my work.”

Tile and cover image: Fiona Susanto/Courtesy of Ryan McGoldrick and Kate Banazi