Interview by Grace O’Neill
London-based Michael Anastassiades shares some of the influences that lead him to create lights that border on fine art.
GO What motivated your pivoting from civil engineering student to artist to designer?
MA My parents’ idea that having a career as an artist was a little bit doomed [motivated me originally]. Then, when I graduated from the Royal College of Art I was creating objects that questioned the role of design in our lives. There was a long period of creating experimental projects—what later became known as ‘critical design’. It wasn’t until I started producing pieces for my own home that I realised I really enjoyed designing for industry. When I launched my brand in 2007, I became more and more focused on lighting.
GO People struggle to characterise your work as either fine art or design—does that binary bother you?
MA I think there’s an inability to grasp something creative and let it exist in whatever capacity it wants to exist. There’s a need that people have, if they don’t really understand something, to put it in boxes that will make it easier for them to consume. When I moved into industrial design, my process didn’t change.
GO How does consumer culture impact your approach?
MA From very early on in my career, people have been questioning: “How sustainable are your products?” “Can this be recycled?” And I always think, why do you need to go through the process of recycling something? You should design things for life. This is actually against every kind of notion of consumerism. At the end of the day, that’s what we need to focus on.
GO What inspired the Peaks pendant lights and Relay floor lamps you debuted at Milan Design Week?
MA We’re exploring some playful ideas with these collections. There’s this idea of repetition, of playing with shadow and light. What does the piece look like when the lights are off? This is something that I’ve always addressed, because a lamp is off for 80 per cent of its life, and therefore has to exist like a sculptural object. But then you turn the light on and everything changes. For Peaks, the grading of the light against the cone is very different when it’s turned on; it’s actually reversed when the light is off.
GO You’re famously disciplined – does a creative person need to be disciplined to produce great work?
MA I pretty much started my studio straight after graduation, so the only way that I could develop into what I am today was through discipline and hard work. The last two years have been the most overwhelming I’ve had in a very long time.