During Baselworld 2018 The Hour Glass sat down with the renowned contemporary French artist, Richard Orlinski. Famous for his geometric animal inspired sculptures, his collaboration with Hublot and the creation of the Classic Fusion Aerofusion Chronograph Orlinski was his first foray into wristwatch design. Below he gives his take on watchmaking, art and our relationship with time.
Why Hublot? As I believe you’ve been approached by other watch brands before
Firstly, it was a matter of effect. I mean you know with Biver and Ricardo, we were not talking about watches in the beginning, it was more like a relationship. It was very interesting that it was the only brand that would allow me to change the case. We did a special case, and I think any other brand would not allow an artist to make such dramatic changes, only to let them make small cosmetic changes on the dial for example.
So you had more creative freedom?
Yes, I got a wildcard. We started from scratch! And so, I could do whatever I wanted, I came with my design. Of course, it’s a little like a wedding so we had to work and mix the design and engineering sides at the end and meet at a middle ground, but of course they always respected my ideas. Most of all, I wanted a watch you can wear day-to-day. And I think we succeeded in the end.
Yes for sure, did you find the creative process difficult because you are constrained in that it has to function like a watch. So there’s certain limitations?
No because I did my job, I created my design and then they did the watchmaking element of it. You know I’m not a watchmaker I don’t know how to do it, but I think they were very very strong, very clever and they found a way to respect the design in the end. Of course, we changed a few things, but that’s my job, to adapt and find a way.
Compared to your art, watches are quite small. But like art its all in the details…
Yes, of course. Because its very small, you know a watch is a watch. Compared to my sculptures it’s a small thing. But even though it’s different I still took some part of my heart and put emotion into it, it’s the same and different at the same time. Throughout the design phase I’m constantly wondering about the small details, and how to make something very different.
The Born Wild concept is about getting the negative aspects of animals and taming it, making them more approachable. Are you trying to reframe our (sometimes negative) relationship with time?
Yeah of course. It’s a very interesting question. Because it’s the same, as you know it can be something negative, because you only have so much time. But what we have to do with time is to keep it, to spend it and try and be happy that we did something positive with it. And this is exactly something we were trying to tap into.
You’ve said art should be accessible to all, like water. Almost like a universal right. Complicated watches can be intimidating to the beginner collector. Are you trying to make high end watchmaking more approachable?
Yes, but to do so I must still fit within the branding. Once before, I did some collaboration with Disney, we made some little sculptures and then a big one. When working with Hublot, its worldwide, they want people to have both watches and sculptures in one package. So when you go all over the world and see art, see sculptures, people can see it for free and feel some emotions about what its showing. So we thought, yes that is something we want to do with watchmaking. To have the beauty of the watch and the emotion of a sculpture in one package.
For those new to watch collecting, perhaps the relationship between watchmaking and art isn’t as strong as between sculpture and art. Are you trying to change that?
Yes, that’s my goal. That’s my goal! Because for me, art is everywhere, in music, in watches, in jewellery. Anything is art. You must have some sensibility and feel some emotion when you buy your watch. You have to feel something, some emotion. And I see sculpture as the same. So, I think this is the same. Nowadays, we are used to putting people into narrow categories. No more, let’s go beyond that!
You’ve released a musical album, collaborated with Hublot, and continue to sculpt. Is there anything else in the pipeline?
Yeah, in the pipeline. I’m working on a one month show with a French famous humourist and I’m explaining the history of art. Because you know, the history of art is boring. But this one is the one with the best humourist in France, so I’m talking about the history of art with but with something funny. So, the people, they can learn about culture! And they also will have a good time. By the end of the show they won’t know everything, but they’ll still know a lot of new things. Even for me, I see some television shows about art and hey I go to sleep, it’s boring. So, we’ll change that.
A lot of it is about storytelling. Do you think it’s important?
I think it’s important, the storytelling in all the brands is important. In my art I have an explanation, but I want the people to be expected to be free to understand what they want to understand. When I create these pieces, I say “OK I know why I did that”. I don’t care what you think, I want them to be free to say “ahh you did that because..” and 10 people will say 10 different things. Because the art works, I don’t have to impose something and say you have to think this because the artist thinks this. That’s not my way of thinking, my way of thinking is freedom. It’s you know, about sharing. I share because when you share you give emotion.
[Minor edits have been made for clarity]