Ron Gilad sits down with Stephanie Peh and discusses a thinking process that is often stimulated by a series of personal questions in the lines of 'what if' and 'why not'.
Ron Gilad grew up in Tel Aviv with basic living conditions: a sofa “with an ugly painting above”, a small table and a lamp. “There was no beauty about it, it was completely functional. Then I realised that we need very little,” he reveals, a plausible explanation to the sense of lightness inherent across his work. Gilad practises the removal of the excessive in his execution process, using ‘as little as possible’ to achieve an end goal, such that all that is left, as he describes, are the revelation of “the mechanism and little structures”.
As a child, Gilad found escape in doodling. It was only a matter of time before they grew into perspective drawings, leading the way to architecture school. However, he soon realised that the discipline was not for him, and that he would have been too impatient. He made the switch to industrial design in college. He never graduated. Subscribing to the school of life, he worked on many projects and one thing led to another. “Soon, I found myself in New York with my own studio: a little company that was losing money every day,” he chuckles.
Despite the early struggles, Gilad found freedom to develop his own way of thinking. For him, the rationale of creating something never starts from the place of an end user, beauty or function. He is fueled by abstract narratives, which he describes as, “daydreams about everyday life: a place where I want to be, or a question that I want to answer.”
His conceptual approach borders art and Gilad has become known for his sculptural solo exhibitions, often presenting new ideas about structure, proportion, material and existing notions. Sometimes, an abstract thought ends up sitting within the world of functionality seamlessly. “It is all about playing and stretching the meaning and representation of functionality. It always comes from a place of putting doubts on things and not taking them for granted. Like a child, I ask questions all the time. I will never give up my naivety. If I do, I will cover myself on the ground and go to sleep,” he quips.
Gilad’s approach caught the attention of Italian players, who began knocking on his doors, wanting to impart alphabets of his language into their DNA. With a holistic support structure, Gilad was able to concentrate on what he was meant to do best. “It is very important for me to not become part of the company, but to remain an individual who works with the company. That is why I work with very few companies. I have one assistant, a tiny studio and a computer. I try to be in full control of all my projects,” says the visionary designer who still translates his ideas through paper and pencil.
In his collaboration with Molteni&C, Gilad created Grado, which constitutes the exploration of three simple lines in collision as an inception point. “It was a matter of learning about the meeting point [between the three lines] and playing with geometry,” he shares. He had long pondered about the existence of ‘corners’ and how they are created. He asked himself everything he could think of, before exploring what happens when the lines evolve according to various angles: what happens when its at 10, 35 or 45 degrees? “I was creating a setting for a stone and waiting for a diamond to sit inside. That was when the glass was created, and function was born.
“However, I didn’t give Molteni&C the pleasure to only be logical. I created the Panna Cotta, which came from the idea of how a structure can be supported by something completely illogical,” he added. He sought to create tension between materials that do not typically ‘match’, just to see what would happen. For him Panna Cotta is a slightly silly, paradoxical marriage of lacquered metal combined with French marble.
“We cannot fit ourselves to a mould that already exists. I do not think that any of my thoughts that have been transformed into products are revolutionary. I did not invent anything, but I think that some of them are little steps in the evolution of design. To realise something every day, be it small, on my mind or paper – it does not have to be translated into something real immediately, it already means a lot,” he sums up his motivation.