“It’s that lightness of thought and lightness of product that we all should aspire to.”
The Memphis Group, founded in Milan in 1980, reacted against the stark minimalism and rather formulaic design principles of the Mid-Century Modern style with maximalistic yet lighthearted designs. Memphis designers valued form over function in direct opposition to their predecessors. This is particularly tangible in Memphis ceramics, a medium which historically had been extremely function-dependent.
As part of his ‘Great Lakes’ series, Matteo Thun’s ‘Garda’ amphora prescribes to the lighthearted approach of Memphis to design. The large scale and exaggerated form of the vessel convey an object (an indeed a designer) which does not take itself too seriously. The piece is sculptural rather than useful, yet the form is still vaguely familiar and recalls an Ancient Greek amphora.
Despite an apparent balking at traditional design, the Memphis style was not without its historical references and homages. Memphis designers like Thun utilized historical motifs and allusions in new and unexpected ways. The Great Lakes series, for example, was named after famous historical bodies of water, the present piece being named for Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy. Other pieces in the collection include the ‘Chad’ teapot, ‘Ladoga’ cocktail glass, and the ‘Manitoba’ hors d’oeuvres set. “Memphis” itself was a nod to both Ancient Egypt and Memphis, Tennessee, the Southern seat of rock’n’roll and blues, representing the group’s blending of past and present.