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Launched in 2010, the annual programme of artists’ residencies organised by the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès allows four young visual artists to discover exceptional artisan skills. Mentored by artist Giuseppe Penone, Atsunobu Kohira worked at the Cristalleries de Saint-Louis in 2011.
Born in Hiroshima in 1979, Atsunobu Kohira is a graduate of the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris (ENSBA) and Le Fresnoy. His work explores the five senses, especially the visual depîction of sound, or the ‘translation’ of matter into sound.
Mentored by Giuseppe Penone, his teacher at ENSBA, Atsunobu Kohira began by working alongside artisans at the Cristalleries, immersing himself in the history of the site. Founded in 1586, this exceptional glassworks in Moselle (France) became a centre for lead crystal-making in 1781, with a reputation for expertise and innovation reaching back over four centuries.
Atsunobu Kohira sought to reflect the site’s extraordinary historicity in his work, while at the same time exploring the unique transparency and resonance of crystal. His Instrument pour Saint-Louis comprises two geodesic hemispheres encasing a mechanical timepiece movement driving a single hand, rotating backwards. Rubbing the edge of the upper section, the hand embodies the passage time. Each minute is sounded thanks to a notch generating a note whose pitch is dictated by the seven different thicknesses of the uppermost dome, reproducing the octave scale.
On a black, hexagonal base, Instrument pour Saint-Louis plays on effects of transparency and light, synthesizing the techniques used to manufacture and work fine crystal, first hot (blowing), then cold (cutting, engraving, gilding and polishing). The distinctive sound highlights a property of crystal hitherto unexploited at the Cristalleries. Mastered here by Astunobu Kohira, the result is a true work of collaboration.