The Polymath Shines Bright

By Jake Gloth

Polymaths are people of wide learning; creatives that have breached the gap between different fields of art with excellence. These artists can shine as painting-musicians, interior decorating-actors, or even fashion designers turned furniture creators. This leap from one artistic field to another is a challenge but one that several creatives have done to become a polymath

This is exactly what British designer and artist Samuel Ross has done with his new furniture exhibitions: Signal, Rupture, and Amorphous Strand. Ross, the pioneer behind the design label A-COLD-WALL, showcased his three-part exhibit at Design Miami in Flordia, U.S.A. from Dec. 1 to 6. It was meant to illustrate industrial designs with an artistic twist that fleshes out a deeper meaning. 

Signal re-defines chairs with a unique shape and design. These seats feature holes and negative spaces that are meant to suggest disruptions in once congruent places.

Similarly, Rupture focuses on gaps in these marble and powder-coated steel shapes. It is intended to ask questions about connection and abstraction.

Amorphous Strand takes common forms of furniture and bends them into a new industrial form. It is meant to reflect scar tissue and experiences of stress. 

Ross believes the exhibit questions Western dominance in art by combining West African style with European Modernism and Brutalism. Ross’ dive into furniture design embodies the spirit of a polymath. It demonstrates creativity across multiple mediums.

However, Ross is not the only artist to diverge from their traditional space. Fashion designer Tom Ford who has dropped into filmmaking with great success. Ford is famous for working as creative director for Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent and starting his own brand which included clothes, make-up, accessories, and more. After all this success, Ford decided to try his hand at filmmaking with A Single Man (2009) and Nocturnal Animals (2016). Both films received international acclaim, and Nocturnal Animals was nominated for an Academy Award. 

Another example comes from Hannah Hooper, the vocalist/keyboardist for alternative rock band Grouplove, has delved into the art world. She has incorporated many of her paintings into her music career by designing album cover art and even painting on stage. 

Another polymath is the American composer and artist John Cage, who was originally trained as an artist before making his mark on the music industry and modern dance. On television in 1959, he performed “Water Walk”, a music composition that only used household objects such as bathtubs, kettles, and rubber ducks. 

When it comes to multi-talented artists, it’s hard not to mention Elsie de Wolfe. De Wolfe started out as an actress in 1886 but found incredible fame as an interior decorator (she is sometimes regarded as the first to ever hold the profession). She went on to publish The House in Good Taste in 1913 which is regarded as one of the most influential interior design books in history.

Whether it is an actress with a passion for design, a musician that has turned to paint, an artist with a love for music, or a fashion designer taking on furniture, these creatives have gone beyond their field. They have stretched and expanded their artistic ability to become polymaths.     

If you enjoyed “The Polymath Shines Bright”, you may also like “Reflecting the World“.