Paolo Ulian

exhibition view

exhibition view

exhibition view

photos by Mario Gorni

Paolo Ulian 1990-2009

curated by Beppe Finessi

April 22 - May 2, 2009

On the occasion of the Salone Internazionale del Mobile 2009, Careof and Viafarini are glad to present at Fabbrica del Vapore, curated by Beppe Finessi, the first retrospective exhibition of the work of Paolo Ulian, one of the most significant designers of our time, heir of the old masters of Italian design (such as Bruno Munari, Achille Castiglioni, Angelo Mangiarotti, Vico Magistretti, Enzo Mari). Thanks to his talented consistency, Paolo Ulian represents nowadays an inspirational figure for the youngest generation of contemporary designers.
Ulian’s oeuvre covers a period of twenty years, and it’s rich of relevant collaborations (including brands such as Driade, Progetti, Bieffeplast, Zani&Zani, Fontana Arte, Seccose, Coop and BBB emmebonacina). Ulian’s works have been exhibited in many cutting edge spaces devoted to visual research and experimentation (from Opos to SaloneSatellite, from Droog Design to Galleria Luisa Delle Piane).
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue Paolo Ulian 1990-2009 with a text by Beppe Finessi and Giuseppe Ulian, drawings by Paolo Ulian; graphics by Gumdesign, publishing by Careof and Viafarini (April 2009).

Paolo Ulian (Massa 1961). Graduated at Accademia di Belle Arti of Carrara where he attended painting lessons held by relevant artists Getulio Alviani and Luciano Fabro, he then attended Isia Institute in Florence, where he graduated in Industrial Design in 1990. In the very same year he started to work with Enzo Mari in Milan. Ulian collaborated with him until 1992, and then started up his own business with his brother Giuseppe. Ulian exhibited in several shows in Italy and abroad, and won internationally relevant prizes such as Design for Europe Award, Design Report Award and Dedalus prize. He collaborated with Driade, Bieffeplast, Fontana Arte, Luminara,  Zani & Zani, BBB emmebonacina, Sensi&C., Droog Design, Coop, Azzurra Ceramica, Skitsch.

Beppe Finessi (Ferrara, 1966). Architect and teaching fellow at Politecnico di Milano, where he holds courses in Interior Design, Design and Contemporary Arts and Exhibition Techniques, he is also a design critic (from 1996 until 2007 he collaborated with Abitare magazine as design editor) and a researcher (he keeps to learn from Art, trying to “see the rainbow in profile” and not to forget the importance to “lighten”). Since several years his critical research deals with the oeuvre of the great tradition of Italian designers (Bruno Munari, Vico Magistretti, Angelo Mangiarotti, Alessandro Mendini) as well as with the poetics of some of the most cutting edge protagonists of the contemporary international scene, such as Fabio Novembre and Martí Guixé.

Paolo Ulian, Twenty years, an exhibition

Paolo Ulian: a pure and free approach, focused on recurrent themes, unique landscapes of affection sketched with a continuous, spontaneous and natural commitment.
The exhibition is divided in two areas, each one of them containing three fields of research, developed through the elaboration of various objects, different and yet addressing the same issues.
The first thematic area, lying at the intersection between construction and production, gravitates towards the expert use of materials.
A series of objects reflects the designing traces (Progettare Tracce): objects whose final look is genuinely connoted by the traces of use and manufacturing, like in the little garden table made of burnished steel that can be embedded in the ground so to leave its mark; the same is true for the vases, identical in shape, but differentiated by a processing that let different layers of colours emerge.
Respecting the Matter (Rispettare la Materia) means to feel the necessity to optimize the use of materials, paying attention not to waste any, considering recycle and reuse of industrial waste so to meet new, unexpected functions, giving new life to the discarded materials: marble elements become lamps, containers and kitchen tools while plastic bottles can be folding screens or hat-stands.
To have constructive forethoughts (Accortezze costruttive), following productive innovations, deriving from an almost engineeristic knowledge, made possible some genius and yet comprehensible constructions (a wall mounted coat holder, composed by holed modules of marine plywood, inserted on a aluminum track; a table lamp whose lampshade is constituted by an elastic bathing cap, which underpins the metal structure.
The second area is related to the research of a good match to the functional use, already accepted or brand new. Therefore objects are created in order to adding functions (Aggiungere Funzioni), challenging a tradition that gave birth to strictly monofunctional objects and finally creating a dictionary of items with several opportunities of use (a multipurpose double-bladed kitchen knife; a wash basin with a small basket built-in; a coffee table that becomes a bench; a pair of beach slippers which impress on the sand the sentence “who loves me follow me”; a vase whose horizontal section makes it possible to place both a single flower or a big bouquet). This way, projects are the mean leading to a fine shape (Buona Forma), through little and more relevant attentions (an oil cruet where every detail is a perfect mix of particular materials and functional use, or a round knife to ctu pizza whose hilt is made of a single steel strip). Not to mention the importance of observing everyday behavior (Osservare Comportamenti) to derive innovative product typologies: ”If you are not curious, please change job” that was the motto of the great juggler of design, Achille Castiglioni. Noting how people live, move, or perform that gesture fot that purpose is an effective way to imagine brand new products: for instance a simple bathroom tile, decorated with string motif, similar to the one of a lined exercise book, becomes a “polite” invitation to perform undercover writings or a bathmat with integrated slippers, designed to move yourself after a shower, like if you were “skating” or again a “wearable” biscuit, ready to be put on a finger and dipped inside a Nutella pot.
At the centre, heart and zipper of the three conceptual areas, is a group of projects that declare the author’s affiliation, his moral position, his way of being in the world. Always sustained, by an ethical cognition, Paolo Ulian understood before others, looking inside of himself, that his own life had to be spent not filling the world of meaningless things, running after the market-oriented logic. Therefore, the project trio makes his luminous, crystalline consciousness stand out (as in the bottle wrap made of by a newspaper page chosen for its political message, a match to be used twice, a postcard that can hold nourishing for bodies other than for souls).

Paolo Ulian, again: every single moment, sober works, never forced to be astonishing, oftentimes silent, delicate, crossed by a good dose of humor, standing in between taunt and a laughter, but always gracious (as thought by Castiglioni and Munari), never forgetting the sculptural value of objects, so to guarantee all items of our everday life a ‘right to beauty’ besides their essential functionality (to this respect, Mangiarotti and Mari are the main reference). In Ulian’s case this expressive ability is the sign of a rare, shining insight.

Beppe Finessi

With the support of Fondazione Cariplo, Gemmo e Azzurra Ceramiche.


last update 12-10-2011