The colossal, awe-inspiring process behind Adam Hoets’ wall-mounted chandelier, “Southern Flame”.


Sunday 8th April, 2018

Since February, willowlamp has been privileged to appear in Southern Guild’s 10th-anniversary showcase, “Extra Ordinary”, alongside creatives in a range of disciplines. Hosted by Cape Town’s GUILD Gallery, the prestigious design platform held a walkabout of “Extra Ordinary” with featured artist-designers on 22 March 2018. Each exhibitor spoke briefly about their piece, including willowlamp Creative Director Adam Hoets, who explained the colossal, awe-inspiring process that produced the wall-mounted chandelier “Southern Flame”.

Founded in 2008, Southern Guild helped foster a new brand of skilled local artists and designers whose work is spirited, complex and technically challenging. Their core stable consists of the best in local, high-end, limited-edition design, and is curated by GUILD co-founder and CEO Julian McGowan. McGowan led the “Extra Ordinary” walkabout, where featured exhibitors gave visitors a personal account of the creative concepts, processes and inspirations behind their breath-taking experimental designs.

Our first major installation of 2018, the Southern Flame was the result of several month’s labour by Hoets, inspired by the deconstructed geometry of willowlamp’s Mandala Chandelier. Unlike others, this chandelier stretches in a bright cascade from the ceiling to the floor, seeming to erupt from the interstice between the wall and the ceiling.

Visit GUILD Gallery to see Southern Flame before the exhibition closes on 16 April 2018.

GUILD Gallery, Shop 5B, Silo 5, V&A Waterfront

For those who couldn’t make the exhibition walkabout, here is a Q&A with willowlamp Creative Director Adam Hoets, regarding the concept and production of Southern Flame.

What informed the design of this piece?

The project started as a challenge arising from a conversation with Julian McGowan, one of the co-founders of Southern Guild. He challenged me to design a chandelier that turned the idea of a chandelier on its head. My design would differ by not being like any other “pretty object” in the centre of a room. He first suggested the idea of a Mandala that sat in a corner and came down to the floor. Something about the idea stuck: my mind could not let go of what I felt was a compelling idea.

What were you setting out to achieve with Southern Flame?

There were a number of different conceptual points of entry into the design. One way I conceptualised the piece was as a kind of leak from the geometric plane. The leak spread to our reality through the cracks and joins between planes and surfaces, forming a sort of “corrupted” crystalline portal from another dimension. This pure geometric plane is leaking its way into our reality, running along the ceiling cornice and down onto the floor. I took one of my designs, the Mandala, as a point of departure, corrupting and extending the geometry to produce this structure. The visually stable rotated forms of the mandala have now started melting down to the floor like the Surrealist clocks in Salvador Dali’s “Persistence of Memory”. Part of the perfect mandala is embedded like a crystal in a distorted, corrupted matrix that melts downwards. I chose to render the design in copper, brass and Smoke (gun-metal) chains so the work resembled an abstract geometric fire flowing up the wall to the ceiling. Playing with the senses, the design evokes the feeling of a warm fire in the absence of any actual fire.

Can you elaborate on your use of materials?

For the upper frames, I used laser-cut stainless steel. Brass, copper and gun-metal ball-chains were used as well as over one hundred suspended LED lamps. These are the materials I use with regular willowlamp products.

What do you think makes it “extra ordinary”?

Southern Flame is primarily a work of art before it is a chandelier/light installation. It is a truly sculptural piece that is conceptually based and has a strong evocative quality, tapping into our deep connection to fire while transforming it into an extra-dimensional otherworldly presence.

How is it a development and/or departure from your previous work?

At a glance, the reference to the Mandala designs is obvious. However, this design is in no way limited by conventional ideas regarding a chandelier “object” – what a chandelier should be. The piece is placed against the wall instead of in the centre of the room, and drops all the way to the floor. This turns our conventional assumptions about such an object upside down.

What did you learn in the process of making this and how will that benefit your practice as a whole?

Designing this piece was an extremely lengthy labour of love. Because it is so irregular, with so many different and unrepeated lengths of chain, finding a way to actually make it was a serious challenge. In the end there were over 30 pages of chain-cutting schedules. Each chain had to be precisely located and there were over 10,000 individual pieces of chain. Even designing the three-dimensional model for this piece forced me to use regular CAD programs in ways for which they are not intended, literally hacking the software to achieve the complexity I needed.

What effect do you want the piece to have on people standing before/beneath it?

I would like people to feel as though they are temporarily transported to an abstract realm – one of pure geometry and rich warmth. If I can induce a hypnotic, meditative and contemplative state of awe temporarily, I will feel I have accomplished something.