We’ve had our eyes on Lightning + Kinglyface — aka Anna Fulmine and Victoria Shahrokh — for some time; featuring the talented twosome back in 2012, and immortalising our musings with them in our Create GB publication. To say we were big fans would be a critical understatement. Two years have passed — and we were thrilled to see their latest project for Laboratory Perfumes, their exquisite execution of glass, shapes and liquids photographed by Kate Jackling a particularly powerful example of their practice.
Elegant, abstract, sensory — one is instantly drawn to the project’s oily textures and seductive curves. Completely original, their work pioneers the relationship between set design, photography and art. Even their commercial portfolio is miles ahead of its game, with innovative commissions from BMW, Cartier and Lurpak. Challenge-hungry and ambitious, L+K are masters of an inimitable craft — inspired by light, reflection and shape; the girls’ concept-based work has been stepping away from large-scale work, honing their style and pushing boundaries in unexpected ways. Fulmine and Shahrokh’s approach is organic, fluid, they are at their best when given ultimate freedom. Happy accidents and experimentation ensure a visually-stunning execution on all levels.
We Heart sat down once more with Anna and Victoria in their Hackney studio, to digest recent projects and commissions — and to discuss the importance of light, freedom, and how they approach each project from concept to fruition…
We Heart last spoke to Lightning + Kinglyface two years ago (how time flies)… what’s new?
Our commissions have got a lot more creative, and more challenging. Since we last spoke we’ve become a lot more selective with the commissions that we take on — we’ve definitely learned a lot in two years. When we first started off, we had a real bee in our bonnet about wanting to make absolutely everything. We wanted it to be done by our hands, and in our studio, but that meant we would be up until 5am every night.
Over time, we’ve met some amazing makers who we outsource to, making the whole process a lot easier. So, rather than trying to do it all ourselves, we get in guys like East Productions or set builders to help. We know when to say no now, without that impending guilt we used to feel. I guess we’re a lot more confident and relaxed. We like to learn something new on every job so we tend to pick ridiculous projects. If someone asks us to weld something we get very excited, we are definitely girls with tools.
You worked with Laboratory Perfumes on their fourth unisex eau de toilette Tonka. The styling and concept were exquisite, full of light and shape and elegance. How did that come about and what was your inspiration behind the shoot with Kate Jackling?
The perfumes are amazing and the ingredients are really interesting. We wanted to show that intangible sense of the scents. We wanted to give the project that laboratory feel but not in a stereotypical way, we didn’t want it to be identifiable. Process is really important for us — so we began by designing shapes and blowing our own glass. We had a lot of freedom for the design to look playful, but just a day with Kate grabbing the components and placing them together.
It was a really natural process. The glass shapes were always there, we wanted to capture the essence of the liquid, the textures, and in front of the camera it just worked. We work better when we are chucked straight into a situation. We love happy accidents. We’ve had amazing feedback for that project, which is reassuring considering we had quite a freestyle approach.
Just how much time do you have for personal work these days?
It goes in phases: January was solid with personal work — we had seven on the go — then a month later we were firmly booked with commercial work. We need to balance it, because sometimes the busier you are, the more creative you feel. We always feel the need to get more personal work done. We like to be seen more as creatives than facilitators. If you can do your own work it gives you an identity. We prefer when people come to us to develop ideas, rather than asking us to make things.
You both work with some amazing photographers, can you tell us whom you’d like to work with and why?
There are just so many talented photographers out there. It’s a tricky one because we look at so many photographers’ works, and when our portfolio has got to a certain stage we start approaching certain ones. It’s great having an agent because they always have great contacts. Our new challenge is to broach into other avenues — we’d like to work in film in a directorial capacity. For us, meeting musicians and filmmakers is more of a goal now. It would be our dream to work with Björk.
How do you typically begin a project?
We start with nice references of our own works and create mood-boards of textures and tones — then jump very quickly into the making stage, because we can’t stay at the development stage for too long. We need to see if the idea is going to work quickly. If it is a commercial project, we need to show roughs and ideas… but for our own projects, the sketch phase is not that long, we prefer to get stuck in physically.
Please tell us what you love about your studio?
It’s a brilliant space because it morphs weekly, we’ve knocked down walls, built cupboards and are always moving things around. It’s probably our eighth studio in London, as a lot of our past studios have been knocked down to make space for luxury flats. The best thing about this studio is that we can adapt it easily, the long lease really appealed to us too.
In Babinet’s Playground for Printed Pages magazine, you loosely translated Jacques Babinet [French physicist, mathematician, and astronomer best known for advancements in optics]’s theory of diffraction patterns into a series of photographs by Kate Jackling, that delve into the curiosity of light and its play on materials and form. You both have a kink for light; can you tell us what is it about light hitting surfaces that is so appealing?
It started because we were seeing too much of a lot of materials that were being used in set design. There was a similar language happening, and using light as a surface was somewhat new then. For us it was a new discovery too. We’re a bit like magpies, we have such an array of tools (we actually have a light cupboard), we’ll go to car boot sales and see shiny things that we’re instantly drawn to; light is this intangible thing that’s easy to manipulate… it feels really good using it. Light is also integral to the photography part of what we do. It is a great way on combining set design with photography.
Could you tell us which is one of your favourite commissions since 2012?
We loved the BMW project. We were asked to do whatever we wanted to do, and when we pitched the idea we waited and waited, and waited. When the go-ahead came in we were so excited. As artists we sometimes struggle with recognition, as often the photographer or filmmaker is the star of the show, but the BMW project really focused on us, which was great. We got to work with Owen and Dave from Bison who we hugely respect, and had an amazing time on the shoot. Lurpak was also a great project, because it was heavy on special effects and we learnt so much. It was great to be paid to experiment and blow stuff up.
How different are your approaches when working with the likes of Astin Martin, BMW or Cartier to projects — the likes of Twin or Perspicillum?
Personal work is way more intense. We stress about it more. The process, because it all depends on the photographer and us, becomes a lot more intense. There’s a lot more of ‘us’ going into personal work, and it means so much more to us. We live and breathe our work. Personal work can eat you up a bit, whereas with commissions we can focus on the key skills that are required for the job.
If you could work on any project, in any scale and budget, what would it be?
It’s probably what we are about to embark on. We, along with Owen Silverwood, are hoping to create a major light show. It’s our ultimate dream to take on a huge space and create an explorative light installation — we want it to be experiential, theatrical and all about light, with 3D lasers and fibre optics. We’re hoping to secure funding to make this really spectacular. The work will showcase a lot of techniques and disciplines that we’ve learnt but haven’t applied to a project yet. It’s as if all that needs to come out, and will do so in this project.