Jan Ernst Collaborates with OKHA on Synergistic Harmony

Jan Ernst Collaborates with OKHA on Synergistic Harmony

WORDS Gina Dionisio PHOTOS Supplied


As a leading furniture design studio OKHA are committed to shining a light on the level of craft and innovation that is propelling Cape Town’s design scene onto the global stage.

OKHA’s recent Convergence of Creativity Exhibition, which formed part of this year’s Cape Town Furniture Week programme, was a showcase of the craftsmanship and design work emerging from studios across Cape Town.

The exhibition featured a diverse line-up of acclaimed artists and designers, including Jan Ernst, Willowlamp, WaterDixon, Vitalli, Zander Blom. Each piece selected exemplified the unique perspectives and talents of leading local talent influencing interiors around the world.

Jan Ernst Collaborates with OKHA on Synergistic Harmony

The Convergence of Creativity Exhibition culminated in the showcase of works made in collaboration between OKHA and Jan Ernst; a multidisciplinary artist whose work is a harmonious blend of organic forms and abstract sensibilities.

We chatted to Jan to find out more about this exciting collaboration, entitled Synergistic Harmony.

Can you elaborate on how your collaboration with OKHA reflects the fusion of divergent design aesthetics and a shared vision for exploring form, function, and emotive vibrations?

At its core, our partnership celebrates the harmonious coexistence of contrasting design languages, resulting in a dynamic synthesis that pushes the boundaries of creativity.

While OKHA’s design ethos leans towards sleek architectural minimalism and refined elegance, my studio’s aesthetic is characterised by soft organic forms and expressive textures found in nature. Despite these apparent differences, our collaboration thrives on the principle of unity in diversity.

Through meticulous dialogue and mutual exploration, we discovered by embracing the tension between divergent styles, we could unlock new avenues for creative expression, allowing form and function to intersect in unexpected ways.

Central to our collaboration is a shared commitment to imbuing our creations with emotive vibrations – evoking visceral sensations, and experiences that transcend the physical realm. Whether through the tactile allure of sculptural forms or the subtle interplay of light and shadow on the plinth’s surfaces, each piece in our collaboration tells a story, inviting viewers to engage with it on a deeply personal level.

Moreover, our collaboration extends beyond the realm of aesthetics, encompassing a shared vision for innovation and pushing the boundaries of design. By harnessing our collective expertise and leveraging cutting-edge technologies, we strive to create objects that not only captivate the senses but also inspire and provoke thought.

In essence, the collabortation represents a harmonious fusion of divergent design aesthetics united by a shared passion for exploration and creativity. Through our collaborative efforts, we seek to redefine the relationship between form, space, function, and emotive vibrations, forging a path towards a more interconnected design landscape.

What inspired the title Synergistic Harmony for your collaboration with OKHA, and how does it encapsulate the essence of your artistic partnership?

This is all Adam, but I think that title captures the essence of the collab, divergent design aesthetics united by a shared vision that explores and express form and coexist harmoniously. 

How did Constantin Brancusi’s approach inspire the synergy between geometric and organic elements in your collaboration with OKHA?

Constantin Brancusi’s approach to art has long served as a profound source of inspiration for me, particularly in our collaboration with OKHA where we aimed to synergise geometric and organic elements.

Brancusi’s dedication to preserving the integrity of his art, as evidenced by his desire for his works to be exhibited exactly as they were in his studio, resonated deeply with me. His belief that the display surface is an extension of the artwork itself underscores the importance of the relationship between sculpture and plinth.

Brancusi ingeniously utilised this relationship to create a dialogue between the organic forms of his sculptures and the geometric simplicity of his plinths. This interplay resulted in a dynamic contrast, akin to a yin and yang, where the organic and geometric elements complemented each other harmoniously. 

The collaboration with OKHA involves responding to architectural CUT FORMS designed by Adam Court. How did you approach integrating your sculptures with Court’s plinths to create a cohesive narrative within the exhibition?

Integrating my sculptures with Adam’s architectural cut forms presented a unique challenge, but also an exciting opportunity to create a cohesive narrative within the exhibition.

His design aesthetic, characterised by its geometric and architectural nature, starkly contrasts with my own artistic style. However, rather than viewing this as a hurdle, I approached it as a chance to explore new creative avenues. Drawing from my background with a master’s degree in architecture, I found a natural affinity for responding to the plinths.

Rather than seeking inspiration from nature, as I typically would, I adopted a methodology akin to architectural design. I analysed the sculptural plinths as if they were landscapes, discerning visual cues such as lines of energy, recesses, highlights, and subtle shadows. These architectural elements served as the foundation for my response.

However, my approach extended beyond mere mimicry. I imbued the organic shapes of the sculptures with a sense of life and spirit, infusing them with what I like to call “souls.” This conceptual twist led to the creation of sculptures named Animism 01 and 02, which seamlessly melded with Court’s designs while adding an additional layer of depth and meaning to the exhibition.

Can you share any specific challenges or breakthrough moments you encountered during the collaborative process with OKHA, and how did they influence the final outcome of the exhibition?

Collaborating with OKHA presented us with both challenges and breakthrough moments that significantly impacted the final outcome of the exhibition.

One of the most significant challenges we encountered was finding the balance between collaboration and maintaining our individual artistic integrity. When we embarked on this project over a year and a half ago, we initially struggled with this. We even reached a point where we had to pause the collaboration because it felt forced and lacked authenticity.

However, this hiatus proved to be a breakthrough moment for us. During this time, we reflected on our approach and realised that the true essence of collaboration lies in celebrating the uniqueness of each party involved rather than trying to merge our aesthetics. It was a realisation that allowed us to embrace our distinct artistic styles while finding common ground to create something truly exceptional.

By embracing our individual strengths and artistic identities, we were able to infuse the exhibition with a diverse range of perspectives and creative expressions. This approach not only revitalised our collaborative efforts but also elevated the final outcome of the exhibition.


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