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Karton: Illya Goldman Gubin’s novel yet familiar cardboard furniture
Karton and Paper series by Illya Goldman Gubin
Image: Courtesy of Illya Goldman Gubin

Karton: Illya Goldman Gubin’s novel yet familiar cardboard furniture

The Berlin-based multidisciplinary artist fortifies cardboard boxes using resin and fibreglass, morphing them into seats, tables and shelves.

by Anushka Sharma
Published on : Jan 17, 2023

A table, a seat, or even an entire fort—empty cardboard boxes stashed away in dusty corners reoccur as building blocks of children's imaginations. The misshapen, dented silhouettes fail to daunt the innocent minds and their untethered curiosity. This ever-present material, safely perched in our past memories, traces its way into the present through this series of furniture designs. Karton, conceived by Berlin-based multidisciplinary artist Illya Goldman Gubin is a furniture ensemble comprising a chair design, a stool design, and a bench, featuring resinated cardboard structures stiffened to become seats emulating the ones from our childhood. The designer takes a similar path with paper, fortifying the fragile material with resin and fibreglass to birth the Paper table. "Since Karton was a project after making art for a long period, I wanted to challenge the difference and build a space for discussions between art and design," says Gubin. "By setting specific boundaries and ideologies I was able to push my idea of functional cardboard without losing its artistic approach," he adds.

Karton series by Illya Goldman GubinImage: Courtesy of Illya Goldman Gubin

The core idea of Gubin's creations, past and present, has been to challenge the spectator's programmed mind, with the perception of movement adding another layer of inspiration. The works constituting Karton introduce the viewer to a familiar yet novel path. An extension of Gubin’s experiments with resin, which allowed fluidity to find form, this endeavour takes a turn towards utility—utility in function. These reinforced objects landed on structural integrity through serious play, with smaller prototypes completed in 2020 as points of origin. The skewed and hand-formed appearance as if retrieved straight from a childhood memory—a cognitive jolt of reminiscence of the familiar, further strengthened by Gubin’s experimental practice. “Resin and fibreglass bring to reality that which before only existed in our youthful imagination. Past daydreams thrust into realities,” the furniture designer states.

Karton stool by Illya Goldman Gubin Image: Courtesy of Illya Goldman Gubin

A chair, a bench, a table, and stacked boxes invite interaction. Clad in the designer’s characteristic resin and fibreglass techniques, cardboard, a material conventionally linked to transport and movement, unveils a refreshing aspect of domestic stoicism. The furniture collection exhibits the flexibility of modular design: when stacked, the boxes assume the form of cabinets or shelves that can be elements of storage in space, seamlessly going back to being stools if need be. With Gubin’s table design donned in a black paper in the centre and the resinated boxes circumscribing it, a potential space for cherishing each other’s company is born. "The most important rule was to use a single cardboard for a single piece of furniture. For me, creativity is born with absence of endless possibilities," Gubin says. "For instance, the idea for the Karton Bench that stands on its own openings was born due to my own limitations, which did not allow me to be additive," he points out.

0:11 / 0:30 Karton series by Illya Goldman GubinImage: Courtesy of Illya Goldman Gubin

The sculptural works reiterate the designer’s refusal to limit the possibilities of cartons and view them as mere containers. The product designs refrain from adulterating the raw aesthetic of the cardboard boxes and the (mis)use of these implied objects sheds light on a new meaning. Where these cardboard parameters were once contained and held in, now they support and withstand out. "Movement of goods within these boxes now alludes to mental movement and support outward; interior becomes exterior and back again,” Gubin explains. “What we once carried, can now carry us. All that’s remaining from us is a return to the curious mind. Karton is born from remembering this mindset,” he adds.

Karton bench by Illya Goldman GubinImage:Courtesy of Illya Goldman Gubin

With strong ties to fashion and conceptual art, Gubin’s work ranges from paintings and sculptural art to furniture and clothing. Alongside his atelier, his label IGG bridges the rift between fashion, art, and interior. "The studio's philosophy, not only for the design but for all studio works is based on the fundamentals of the Japanese philosophy of Wabi Sabi. The aim is, to be controlled by the work and not controlling the work," shares Gubin. Breaking the binary continuum of thinking and feeling, science and mysticism, and blurring the boundaries between tradition and innovation, handmade and luxury goods, perfection and imperfection, Gubin‘s installations emphasise the intricacies of human consciousness in order to unravel a better understanding of the self. What springs to life is an oeuvre in a constant state of flux, encapsulating art and deeper nuances of existence; the creases, the asymmetric flaps and the deformed edges questioning archetypes, materials, space, and time and nudging onlookers to reflect and feel.

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