Alex Palenski and Flora Mitjavile,<br> the Art of Materials

Alex Palenski and Flora Mitjavile,
the Art of Materials

“Life is all about encounters”: that’s what we were thinking while walking in Paris to go Alex Palenski apartment-studio. This prodigy of the mobile was going to prove us right without knowing it by introducing us his partner, the illustrator Flora Mitjavile. We were curious and willing to know more about this talented duo, so we kept asking them thousands of questions. Why did they choose to centralise their creative process? Where do they dream of seeing their productions hanged? The answers were full of references and explanations.Without a second thought, Alex took us to visit the place. He creates the mobile parts of his works there. A very meticulous work of assembly which is not to be compared to the quick rhythm of the family studio in Normandy. No sparks and no dust there. In Alex and Flora’s apartment, the setting is cosy yet elegant. Perfect for creation and going with the flow. While the sculptor’s wire cutters are shaping the metal, the drawer is looking for the graphic accident which will make the magic of a line appear. She has always had a preference for drawing . Even after having tried painting. According to her, it’s the base of every work. Almost as much as steel for Alex. His grandfather, a designer, taught him all about it. This family figure taught him how to mix aesthetics and know-how, while encouraging him to develop his own techniques. The result is great. Unique and impossible to imitate. One piece after another, Alex keeps mixing lightness, delicacy and solidity of the structures. A prowess he now carries out on other materials.

Portrait Flora Mitjavile Dessinatrice Atelier Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile
Mobile Alex Palenski Atelier Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile
Atelier Artiste Mobile Dessin Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile
Atelier Mobile Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile
Mobiles Métal Atelier Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile Atelier Mobiles Dessins Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile Mobiles Métal Alex Palenski Mobiles métal Artistes Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile
Salon Chaise RAR Eames Butterfly Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile
Portrait Alex Palenski Salon Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile
Salon Chaises RAR Eames Parquet Bois Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile

Alex, Flora, could you introduce yourselves?

Alex

I’m 37 and I have been creating metal mobile sculptures (that you can see on my website) for almost 10 years. I split my time between my studio in the 10th arrondissement of Paris and Normandy.

Flora

I’m a graphic artist in Paris. I create under the name of Ora Mitja. Besides, I work as an artistic director for a multidisciplinary design agency.

How did the idea of living on your art become obvious to both of you?

Flora

I studied design in the Central Saint Martins in London. At that time, I was passionate about alternative graphic designs, data visualisation and experimental typography. I had my degree and then I’ve worked in London for a few years, before moving back to Paris. Besides, I’ve always drawn a lot: I love vacillating between design and drawing, since I think they are great sources of inspiration for each other.

Alex

I grew up in the studio of my mother, who is a painter and a painting restorer, and my grandfather, who used to be a designer, had a great influence on me. He mostly used steel and knew how to work on it like no one else. I learned how to mix aesthetics and technic with him. Creating and making what we need has always seemed very normal to me: lamps, tables, chairs… But also – and especially – what we don’t need!

Alex, why did you choose to work on mobiles? And Flora, why did you choose the drawing?

Alex

I fell in love with steel first when I was a child, but it took me a long time before getting to know this material. It seemed so hard to handle. I was trained on the job and I had to develop my own techniques and get round my gaps so I could find my style. What I’ve always loved with this material have been the mix of lightness, delicacy, and the solidity of structures. The mobile is the top of this pyramid. The technique of direct steel and the construction of mobiles spoke to me straight away: balances, levers, masses… It’s all very natural to me!

Flora

As for me, the drawing is the basis of every work. It’s the most beautiful part of it, but also the most difficult. I have also done a lot of painting, watercolours and then oil painting and acrylic… but I always come back to drawing. I really admire the true and great drawers – Dürer, Moëbius but also Delacroix! Since recently, I have been interested in engraving: the very physical side of this medium and the strong contrasts we get from it.

Mobile Alex Palenski Salon Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile
Mobile Alex Palenski Salon Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile
Atelier Flora Mitjavile Appartement Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile
Encres Atelier Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile
Art Peinture Gravure Déco Appartement Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile Lampe bureau Industrielle Or Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile Gravure Bibliothèque Appartement Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile Art Atelier Appartement Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile
Dessins encre de chine Appartement Atelier Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile
Plumes Atelier Appartement Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile

What’s the manufacturing process of your works?

Alex

For the table and floor mobiles, there is the whole work on the base, which I do in Normandy in the family workshop. There, welding torches, anvils, hammers and welding reign: there is a lot of noise, sparks and dust… In Paris, I make all the mobile parts. There, everything is quiet, the stools (files, wire cutters) are manual, the radio is playing softly. The atmosphere is perfect for this meticulous work.

Flora

Sketching, erasing, drawing again, tearing, starting again! I’m joking, but it can sometimes be longer than you may think. That said, it’s often very fun, very natural, almost like instantaneous writing.

Where would you dream of seeing your works hanged up?

Flora

In the house of a great drawer, someone I admire and who would have liked my work!

Alex

I love working on very big pieces for outdoor areas. The interaction between sculptures and natural elements fascinates me. I wish I could install some others in inspiring landscapes.

What would your favourite colours be?

Alex

I have never been fond of colours, I’m more interested in the lines and materials. I have almost stopped using paint in my work, and I get the colours from the mixes of different metals and patinas.

Flora

Without hesitation, black! The real and deep black of the Indian ink. I believe than you can make light blaze from the contrast of a pure black and white, and there you can start imagining and have the whole colour spectrum.

What do you like best in your work? Can you tell us about your daily life?

Alex

It’s actually very simple. I feel exactly the same as when I was playing Lego when I was a child: some sort of quiet excitement that keeps me focused and make me daydream.

Flora

I have the same feeling, the impression of playing. I go to my small studio where I spend hours drawing while drinking tea. I try a lot of things, and sometimes I draw a perfect line, by chance or some sort of magic, an accident that happens and creates something. Or I create a character I like. What I like the most are these unique moments and their unique result, impossible to imitate.

Portrait Flora Mitjavile Atelier Appartement Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile
Mobile métal Atelier Appartement Alex Palenski
Mobiles noirs Atelier Appartement Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile
Mobile Appartement Salon Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile
Mobile bleu et noir Salon Appartement Atelier Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile
Mobile doré Bibliothèque Salon Appartement Atelier Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile
Portrait Alex Palenski Atelier Appartement Paris Alexis Palenski et Flora Mitjavile
Portrait Alex Palenski Atelier Appartement Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile

Who inspires you most?

Flora

I have already talked about some of the people who inspire me, and I’d add Alechinsky for its sequential drawings, at the limit of the abstract, Raoul Dufy for its almost medieval woodcuts, and Dubuffet for his crazy characters in the “Coucou Bazar”, who are huge actors of Kabuki. And if I had to talk about contemporary drawers, I’d tell you about Nanne Meyer, Nidhal Chamekh and Karine Rougier.

Alex

The artists working with metal such as Berto Lardera, Marino di Teana, Philippe Hiquily and, in general, Lygia Clark, Barbara Hepworth but also Bob Dylan – not only for his sculptural works!

Is the fact of centralising the creative process, from the basic idea to selling, in your home a choice?

Flora

It’s true that we’re lucky to live in a place perfect for creation: we can work, welcome our customers, and even organise exhibitions. It enables us to remain independent! But we’re also open to a more classic distribution channel. Sometimes, ideas, processes and selling can be done outside of the apartment, in shared studios or galleries.

What are your projects to come?

Flora

In February, I’ll join a new engraving studio in Belleville. I’m very enthusiastic because I’ll be able to work on steel engraving and etching with artists who are passionate. I’m sure it will enable the creation of great things!

Alex

I’m currently working on other materials, such as plaster, which I’m very interested in. I would like to show this work in an exhibition in spring.

Portrait Alex Palenski Atelier Mobile Appartement Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile
Photographie Picasso Déco Atelier Appartement Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile
Mobile Alex Palenski Atelier Appartement Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile
Atelier Dessin Flora Mitjavile Appartement Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile
Dessin Art Atelier Flora Mitjavile Appartement Alex Palenski et Flora Mitjavile

Credits Photography : Constance Gennari – Text :  Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily

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