August 31, 2009

Lighting the Way Between the Visible and the Invisible

An Interview with Designer Roseline de Thelin

Part 2 of 2 (link to Part 1)
Click on any image to increase size to original quality

In the series ‘
Changing Weather’, you strive to balance some of the problems found in modern China (and of course across the rest of the world as well) with Chinese philosophy. How did your fascination with China arise or was this just a ‘convenient’ platform to generate a bigger message? It seems at least that your ultimate focus or even message is one of hope or at very least for a positive future. Do you think that is the case?
There is always a natural flow that brings me into the theme of an exhibition. Nothing is convenient or forced. In terms of the beginnings for the ‘Changing Weather’ work, I went for the first time to China in 2003. Life invited me there.

When I arrived, I was fascinated by the transformation going on. It was almost like sticking my fingers into an electrical plug, it was so powerful. I could feel the energy of change going through me. And it’s not just limited to being there: the changes in China are defining the world of the next decades, so it was quite fascinating.

I have always felt connected to Asian symbolism. I spent a lot of time in India, and this is where I was also introduced to gem stones. Some years later when quartz crystal, mirrors and light were becoming my new mediums, I naturally found interest in Feng shui and realised – not surprisingly – that these materials are considered as ‘chi-energy activators’. (following images from ‘
Changing Weather’, based on photographic stills of moving images used in the exhibition, see link for full details)

I also studied the symbolism of the
I Ching, the Chinese philosophy of changes. I found myself resonating with the symbolic understanding of the cycles of life that is such a large part of Chinese philosophy, noting that when I went to China, I spoke no Chinese. But I still felt that I could somehow read and understand the state of evolution of the country using it’s own symbolic grid, the I Ching.

And so, I went back to China in 2005 and started to define the concept of the exhibition ‘Changing Weather’ that would be presented in Ibiza in 2006 and in Hong Kong in 2007. And in terms of the symbolism, I wanted to express that beyond the fear of what the climate changes might mean for the human population globally, that there is the hope for a new cycle to come. That there is the possibility for our population to change and learn to live in a sustainable way, because if we don’t, then we will be faced with the end of our very existence. I also believe that rebirth always comes after death; that is in fact the ‘message’ of the I Ching and of the exhibition. In terms of the climate changes we are facing and how far into this kind of death realm we will have to go to reach rebirth… well, I don’t know…

Unfortunately, it just so happened that during the time of preparation of the exhibition, the world was going through a series of deadly catastrophes. And this just made me even more aware of what is happening to our planet. I have been concerned with ecological issues for years and I felt that these terribly painful events could awaken a greater global concern about climate change. I actually feel that things have been starting to move and change since then, so yes, I am hopeful in that way.

So with the exhibition, my idea was to suggest a possible ‘rebirth’ or new cycle for the world coming from the climate change, before it is too late. You see, after spending time in the highly populated-polluted Chinese cities, I was dreaming of China finding new ways to sustain the future megalopolises, these unbelievably large city-centres. So I created a symbolic light tableau of this dream using Chinese imagery in combination with high-tech/low-energy consuming lighting.

In the end it was important for me to express this as a very optimistic vision; it is a dream about the possibility of changes and of light within the darkness in the endless cycles of life and death.

You use a very broad selection of different materials in your pieces, including metallic materials and leafing, plastics, iron works (e.g. for furniture pieces), photographs, glass, fibre optics and much more. How do you work with, test and/or combine all these different materials to find just the right combination that gives you either the reaction to light or reflectivity that you desire?
I’m always looking at what has been done and how it works, trying new things out, experimenting with prototypes, etc. Here again it is a process that defines itself as the piece unfolds.

You also use quite a lot of crystal and other minerals in your pieces, very cool. How did your work with these materials start (I’ve seen the story about returning from India and then buying the first kilograms of crystals)?
That’s how it started: playing with those first 20 kgs of crystal beads!

You’ve also written that ‘quartz manipulates energy, activates and transforms the vital Chi.’ Certainly many believe that crystals and other such materials provide not only healing but can also enhance spiritual well-being. Is this something you also subscribe to or how do these materials otherwise ‘speak’ to you?
Quartz crystals have electromagnetic properties that we are only starting to understand scientifically. For me, this electromagnetic field is a doorway, a path to a ‘parallel reality’.

I believe they can interact with our own magnetic field and therefore influence our bodies and minds. It is a subtle level of energy that is rarely consciously felt. For me, it is like the sensation one gets after swimming in the sea, because salt water is very conductive, so it refreshes both our magnetic fields as well as our bodies.

The themes of earth, air, water, fire, etc. feature a number of times into different pieces, as shown here below for example from your ‘
Lightscapes’ series. How do you view your own connection to the earth and the environment?
I feel deeply connected to nature and never get tired of it’s beauty. I am part of it and try to be as good as to it as I am to myself.

Do you think that as an artist you have a particular responsibility to the environment or even to social issues?
Art always reflects on society, it is up to each artist to feel or not responsibility. I feel responsibility to the environment in my daily life, and I wish everyone would take steps to adjust to the needs of our modern world. I try to take steps in the choice of the materials and of the lighting I use in my work. That becomes part of the concept and promotes the idea.

You are perhaps best known for your lighting pieces, but obviously your collections feature other works including furniture, sculptural works, screens and webs and even ‘2+D’ (two-plus dimensional = more than 2D but perhaps slightly less than 3D) paintings.

First, because I particularly liked the works on wood in ‘
The Crystal Spider’ collection (I love any method to increase ‘texture’ in pieces a la Van Gogh or Giacometti), do you try to vary your works, that is, do you work for a while on light pieces, then switch over to painting, etc. or does it depend on your inspiration (or just even when the assignments come in)?
In the context of the exhibition I use media that resonate with the subject. Again, I will often use such spaces to experiment with new technologies. The use of new technologies or techniques is exciting and challenging. Also, when I create a decorative prototype I follow the inspiration that comes from using particular materials with a particular form.

On the other hand, when I work on assignment I look for the best combination of the medium and the form to answer the need. So this can change a lot within the range of possibilities.

Do you in fact have a particular preference among all the different styles – functional or artistic – that you have worked on?
No, this is all part of the process. And I love it all! I always like to introduce changes and experimentation in my work, either through form or in the way a piece expresses my ideas.
(following 2 images combined from ‘
The Other Side of the Mirror’ collection)

Looking as well through your ‘
Now’ collection, I find myself wondering if you have to sit and wait throughout the day – and night – to make sure you have achieved just the right conditions either to test or place your lighting. How do you eventually get the ‘positioning’ then of the different pieces or light beams or whatever just right?
The study of the space where a piece will go is the foundation of the design, this is where it starts when I work on assignment.

Looking into the past a bit: How did you get involved in art and design in general?
I could not help but being drawn to it. That’s really all the explanation I have!

I’m also fascinated about your studies in India at the
J.J. School of Arts in Bombay (or do we have to call it Mumbai now?). How did this come about?
I travelled to India in 1989 and came back totally inspired. This was my first trip to India and I stayed for 3 months. When I came back, I decided to apply for a scholarship from the international artistic exchange program and received this in ’91-92.

I did not really study in the J.J. School of Arts, instead I had my own atelier in the city and was painting daily. My director of research was a painter,
Prabakar Kolte, who was an art teacher at J.J. He was a wonderful man and teacher, and was beloved by his students.

I was regularly meeting with him and his students during my stay. He guided me through the understanding of Indian art and introduced me to many artists. It was a very enriching experience that started me on my own creative journey.

Later then you settled on the island of Ibiza where you’ve said before ‘it’s one place that has never bored me. In Ibiza we can be ourselves. We are free.’ Why is Ibiza – which seems to have a very high concentration of artists for such a relatively small area – then a place of more freedom to you?
Freedom is a subjective thing that comes along with having choices in life. In my case, I think that being away from too many influences (cities), from too many possible choices (consumer world), gives me more freedom to really choose, more freedom to just ‘be’. Being free to choose the conditions in which we work and exist in is the real freedom for me.

In terms of laws and lifestyle, I’m sure you know that Ibiza used to be considered a place of ‘freedom’ in just about every sense of the word. Now – like the rest of Europe – it is becoming more regulated and controlled.

In terms of the people here, well, let’s say that there are lots of artists in Ibiza but not so much art. The permanent population of Ibiza is not more than 200,000 people spread out around the island on the shores and in the hills of a beautiful Mediterranean garden. Then in the summer, the island receives millions of visitors from all parts of the world, many of whom come to forget themselves or their lives by partying and going to clubs all night. But the local population and the ‘habitués’ know where to find the remote callas and can enjoy them without having to push our way through the masses of clubbers and often even hooligans.

Don’t misunderstand me: Ibiza is a good place for a receptor-emitter like me. I feel protected from too many social influences and still connected to the rest of the world. I get good reception for my ‘inner radio’ and also get great response to my work from the people here. My exhibitions draw lots of visitors and I have designed many beautiful pieces for some amazing local homes. I feel very blessed to receive this support from my community, which I consider to be my ‘web’. And it is this very international community that is also opening doors for me to the rest of the world.

My life is nice here, too. I live in the country surrounded by flowers and fruit trees, I can see the sea from my roof top. The nature is always there to be enjoyed through out all the seasons. The community is fun, international, loving and supportive. I have a great work space, and again, I am connected on-line to the outside world. And if I need it, the international airport is 20 miles from my home and being right in the centre of Europe, I can fly anywhere I want without too much trouble.

Still, being on an island does creates a feeling that you have a kind of distance from the rest of the world. This island, this ‘micro world’ as I call it, is in many ways a playground for experimentation, where emotions are often condensed and intense. This is a place where for the last 50 years a community of all nationalities has been mixing with the locals. It is a sort of hub for creative and extravagant outsiders: bohemian artists and freaks, gurus and spiritual seekers, jet-setters, survivors, pensioners, travellers, pirates, party animals, musicians, dancers, DJs and VJs, drug addicts and love addicts … ravers of all kinds.

And I am one of them…


As mentioned, Roseline is currently very busy getting together works that will go in a launch of a limited edition of decorative light objects in Perspex (also known as Plexiglas), among other pieces. She would like to invite everyone to visit her web-site as often as you can, because she loves to keep everyone updated to what’s going on and coming up, too!

We are also pleased to bring you at this link Roseline’s updated biography, which she kindly provided in support of this interview. Enjoy following Roseline through over 20 years of her journeys, exhibitions, and public pieces!


All images and other materials used with express written consent of the artist. These may not be used or copied in any way without permission of Roseline de Thelin.

Kindly note that some images have been modified slightly for either the purpose of sizing or to include more images (e.g. as used in combination). In all cases, please refer to for full details, including materials, photographic credits, original lay-outs and more.

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