As a founding member of the Memphis Group, Nathalie Du Pasquier was pivotal in defining the bold aesthetics of the post-modern era. She has since established a visual vocabulary through her paintings and design work that is relevant across generations and cultures.
Speaking about her working process for designing a recent clothing range for American Apparel, Du Pasquier describes her hands-on approach: “[M]y usual rule for patterns … is very natural and pre-computer: cut and paste. Ideas come as I draw. I guess this is what a designer is: someone who thinks with his drawing hand.” Combining strong geometric elements with organic shapes in unexpected but complimentary colour combinations, Du Pasquier’s work reveals a variety of reference points. As the titles of her signature designs for Memphis suggest, Du Pasquier drew direct inspiration from the bold and colourful textiles she saw during her gap year in West Africa (Zaire, Burundi), and photographs of viruses and cellular structures from her virologist father’s work files (Memory, Grey Matter, Cells), while her poster design for a Memphis exhibition in Toulouse can be seen to tap into the anarchic agitation of collaged punk music posters.
Du Pasquier’s pattern designs for Memphis convey such a palpable sense of energy, they feel as fresh and relevant today as when they were first created in the 1980s. For his collaboration with Danish design company, Hay, London-based designer Sebastian Wrong chose to feature in his Wrong for Hay launch collection furniture and accessories covered in fabric designs from Du Pasquier’s Memphis archive. Meanwhile powerHouse Books in Brooklyn, New York, have published a book of Nathalie Du Pasquier’s drawings from the period 1981-1987 as a reference for designers seeking to understand what is arguably the most avant-garde movement since Modernism.
The focus of Du Pasquier’s output since 1987 has been her still life paintings. Representing found objects and, in recent years, abstract sculptural constructions designed by Du Pasquier and built by a carpenter local to her studio in Milan’s Brera district, they are sometimes likened to Giorgio Morandi’s still lifes for their Zen-like calm. Although much quieter compared with her design work for Memphis, Du Pasquier’s paintings feature such fresh colours, clear light and ambiguous combinations of objects, they express equally as much vitality.
In her most recent commission for Wrong for Hay, a series of newly designed screenprinted cushions, Du Pasquier’s stylised drawings of block-like constructions imperceptibly move through space along dotted lines; the cushion functioning at once as an illustration, a decoration and potentially the subject of a still life composition. This easy cross-over between modes of function and of working is the trait of an artist and designer whose instinct it is to create objects – be they paintings, cushions, constructions, or drawings – that are bold, balanced and relevant beyond the realms of time and taste.