After wowing design aficionados with his mirrors and screens, Germans Ermičs presented the Ombré Glass Chair at Spazio Rossana Orlandi in Milan during the latest edition of the Salone del Mobile. Comprising three sheets of glass – one in sandy tones merging into bluish-green, another in bluish-green and blue, and a third in blues descending into violet, this is a tribute to the Glass Chair from 1976 by Japanese designer Shiro Kuramata. “Kuramata’s iconic chair is the purest chair made of glass”, says Ermičs. “I wanted to make my own interpretation in colour, a new three-dimensional experience that looks different from every angle. It’s about transforming the rigid, straight geometry and giving the colour its own consistency and life through chromatic expression.”

Ermičs’s love of colour harks back to his childhood in Riga. “Latvia is 54% forest, so I grew up close to natural phenomena – sunsets, dawns, and misty mornings”, he says. “These are the feelings and sensations I’m trying to convey in my work. A lot of the things I make are very simple, enriched and transformed through colour.” At school, he excelled in mathematics and science – cue his interest in geometry – before studying design and graphic design in Denmark. Desiring to work in three dimensions, he enrolled at Design Academy Eindhoven in the Man & Living department, where he focused on furniture and interiors. During that period, he interned at Robert Stadler’s studio in Paris. “Robert’s strong visual language, and how he uses one or two materials to convey a crisp idea and make it into an object, really spoke to me”, Ermičs reflects.

Wide Horizon Screen, 2017 (detail) Frosted glass / 150 x 150 cm. Photo: Jussi Puikkonen
For his graduation project, he honed his fascination with glass and geometry in Isometric Mirrors (2011), consisting of rotating mirrors characterised by three equal axes at right angles to one another. “Rossana Orlandi spotted that piece immediately and invited me to present it during the 2012 Salone”, Ermičs informs. He has since furthered his visual language to create tables, consoles, and shelves. His merging of colours reveals how he has been inspired by the work of Rothko as well as the Light and Space artists in California, like Larry Bell, James Turrell, and Peter Alexander. He attributes his use of colour to his graphic design background and the making of posters and illustrations. Deploying this three dimensionality has required him to consider colour as something that can give essence to shapes. “Using colour has never been a decorative choice. Rather, it’s about a three-dimensional shape and about transforming the way you look at geometry”, he says. So how he does decide on his palettes? “It’s always a gut feeling and quite spontaneous”, he replies. “Usually I don’t study current trends or what colour does to you, yet I’m in constant search of new combinations.”

Ermičs describes his approach as conceptual, beginning either with colours or a shape in mind: “I think of it as a harmonious relationship where shape and colour are complementary.” Each year, he adds another layer to his work. Last year he curved the surfaces of mirrors so that the meeting point between the glass and the wood would seem to vanish. “This year my challenge has been to bend the glass physically, which allows me to work in a new way visually and structurally”, he says. Several collaborative opportunities have opened up. Together with Glenn Sestig Architects in Belgium, Ermičs designed the Ombré Glass Aquarium for Raf Simons at Dover Street Market in London. In 2016, he was asked by Rene Gonzalez Architect in Miami to create a series of mirrors drawing on the light and colour of Miami’s sea and sky, and designed the four-metre-long Transient Storm Dining Table. He has also collaborated with Dutch photographer Lonneke van der Palen, whose images capture the vividness of Ermičs’s projects.

Ombré Glass, 2016 Sample for Raf Simons / Dover Street Market, London. Photo: Lonneke van der Palen
Embracing the opportunity to engage his vision on a larger scale, Ermičs is currently collaborating on several interior design projects. One is a glass colourscape for the walls, surfaces, and façades of a restaurant in Mexico City due to open in the autumn. A meeting with architect Francisco Elías at Orlandi’s led to an invitation to Mexico City to research the city’s architecture, culture, and landscapes. This guided Ermičs’s site-specific project. “It’s a huge canvas on which to paint the colours that inspired me in Mexico, transforming the space into a natural landscape of urban colour”, Ermičs says of the restaurant, which will serve traditional Mexican cuisine in a contemporary setting. The colour story begins in the kitchen with “a burst of light and radiant sun”, extending to “dusk and dawn” areas, a bar, and a terrace. The concept is to allow different experiences through the colours and finishes of the transparent and frosted glass.”

Ermičs is teaming up with Gonzalez once again, on a retail project for a store in Miami called Alchemist. “The rest of the space is bare concrete and steel clothing racks, and you’ll have this jewel of a checkout counter at the back that’s like a glass installation in a unique Miami colour combination”, he explains. Keen to step out of his coloured-glass comfort zone, Ermičs has also been making projects with stone. For Stone Playground (2016), he experimented with the off-cuts in the warehouse of a stone company in the Netherlands, constructing geometric, sculptural objects using marble, onyx, and semi-precious stones such as amethyst. “I wanted to focus on the balance between something seemingly functional and ‘waste’ material”, he explains. With the same company, he produced a small work called Ubume, for the exhibition Talisman: Contemporary Symbolic Objects, organised by IN Residence at Palazzo Clerici in Milan in April.

Green-Red Frosted Ombré Mirror, 2015 Etched mirror / 45 x 70 cm. Photo courtesy of Studio Germans Ermičs
Green Dawn Mirror, 2016 Ombré Mirror Collection. Photo: Lonneke van der Palen
Ermičs is carrying out more intensive research at the stone company, signalling a new direction in his practice. “I’m trying to see how I can enhance the stone by looking at its beautiful texture in a respectful way, thinking about what Mother Nature gave us and what we’ve taken from her”, he says. “It’s an exciting and technically challenging project. As with my exploration into glass, I’ve set myself on a path to transform the perception of this timeless material.”

This article appeared in DAM63. Order your personal copy.
Ombré Glass Chair, 2017 Transparent glass / 60 x 60 x 70 cm. Photo: Jussi Puikkonen
Misty Mirror, Red Dawn, 2016 Ombré Glass Collection. Photo: Lonneke van der Palen
Stone Playground, 2016. Side Table / In collaboration with SolidNature White Travertine, Alga Superficiem Traonyx, Snow Travertine, Caramel Clouds Onyx, Sunset Rainbow Photo: Otto Kaan
Ubume, 2017. Courtesy of German Ermičs
Germans Ermičs, 2017. Photo: Rihards Funts, Riga
Ombré Glass Chair, 2017 (detail). Photo: Jussi Puikkonen