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Feature Article: Into the Void with Ilan El

A genius is defined as someone who has a high creative function, a flow, and according to legend, the genius lives deep inside of each of us, in a sort of darkness that seeks illumination from within.

In the beginning, there was light for Ilan, he was a boy, lapsing time by building houses from lego in Tel Aviv. Inspired by the eye of his mother, who set the house like an interiors’ magazine, and his father’s workshop as an engineer, he was often lost in play. Today, while his lego collection is still extensive, he not only lives with the objects that create a quality space, he forms them.

Tucked away from the onslaught of traffic that makes its way south from the city on St Kilda Road, a studio of cosmic potential stands unshakable to the hum of the outer world. The exterior is a coated black brick, dusted with a distinct spray of colour by graffiti artist Chuck Mayfield. This seemingly endless mural beams rays of gold and bronze from a source of opaque white perched high depicting sun.

For those with access to the ILANEL Studio, available by appointment, the senses are illuminated further than sight. Lemongrass greets first and on this occasion the sounding charm of a chime, akin to the call to meditation. Somewhat entranced, we sat at the rounded table, mistakenly refusing tea.

Celestial references are a thread in his works with pieces such as COMET, a linear pendant based on a line of light that pierces glass blown objects made by local artisan Maureen Williams. Each of these spherical details is customised in size and colour to suit the client and space, signalling the bespoke nature of all ILANEL pieces. Ilan explained his connection to outer space, “it’s natural sciences, it’s magnificent what’s happening out there. Our solar system.” Other pendants like SATURN and ORB drop an ambient and subtle link to this adoration for the profound and organic.

Closer to home, horizons now emerge in his latest expression as the collection INTROVISION. Based on a photograph, a thread of light transcends the artwork which is hosted on a wall like one would hang a painting. The first in the series sold within two hours of release, attached with a promise to never be repeated. “I took an image of water and sky, connected them through a horizon and put the light there, one shining up one shining down.” The second piece, an image of a desert night sky with an aura of deep blue and magenta, is now showing at Glowing Structures’ Gallery in South Yarra.

Ilan’s reach for the limitless within is linked to the inspiration for INTROVISION. In his teenage years, when suspended in the complexities of life he would sit alone by the Mediterranean, transfixed by the horizon across the sea. Of this meditation, he says, “there’s something about that line, it’s a never-ending line. It brings calmness to me, it doesn’t matter if it’s summer or winter, morning or afternoon. I learned that thing about myself, and to this day that’s why I live so close to the water.”

The CANNON VASE is another reference to a time of becoming a product designer. Reminiscent of the 1960’s ‘make love not war’ statement, it is an intelligent use of shape, able to pivot on its axis to any degree. Ilan warmly reflects on his military experience in Israel, “It grounds you, it matures you like nothing else, and only then you do uni. So when you get to uni, you know one or two things about life.”

Although raised in a religious country, Ilan is untethered to a dogma, devoting his life to science and continuous discovery, seven years of studying architecture is no exception. “I always compare it to medicine because of the importance of it. You have the power, supposedly the knowledge, hopefully, to decide how people live. It’s a huge responsibility.”

For someone dedicated to the experience of living, it’s no surprise he is disappointed in the work of developers that have no interest in the lifestyle of the end-user. When discussing the layout of some modern apartment buildings he said, “I always want to take those architects that design it and make them live in those places. I always wish for that. You live in this, tell me how you feel.” Forms need to serve both physiological and emotional needs, something not factored into the line items of all commercial budgets.

Contrary to thoughtlessness, Ilan’s work is deep, and he confesses that sometimes his enquiry into the lifestyle of a client pushes against the norm. “I ask so many questions, I basically get into their undies,” he laughed. “A couple came in, we were designing light for their bedroom, I asked where do you get dressed? Do you read in bed? I need to know.” A product designer must understand how one experiences the object and the senses it relates to.

Humbled by the nature of consciousness, Ilan acknowledged how ideas come through to this world like meteor showers. “Everything has been done before. As we speak, we sit here and think about new things then two weeks after you see it online by someone else, from the other side of the planet,” acknowledging the interconnected flow of all things. Science.

Still, ideas abound from the curious studio made up of creative minds in this unsuspecting nook of St Kilda. Unlike the nature of a switch, Ilan’s conceptual mind ceases to diffuse. A genius accepts the call into the unknown, searching deeper into himself and discovering his own solar system, conjuring an orbit of meaningful work in an ultimate void.

Visit to further explore the range and enquire about a bespoke lighting appointment.


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