‘Give it a go,’ grins the blue-eyed blacksmith Alon Fainstein, noticing me eyeballing the one and only ‘Chaise Lounge’. Despite the lowness of the leather and forged steel recliner potentially wreaking havoc with the shortness of my magenta leopard-print dress, I can’t resist. And man, is it worth it!
As I gently sink into this bewitching seat, I take in the rich scent of cowhide, and I quietly wish to lay like this forever. The recliner is very comfortable. Surprising, actually, because upon face value, one would assume it to have been designed primarily with aesthetics in mind. It’s a looker, too. Pointed, textured and elongated folds of mild forged steel protrude floorwards in varying directions, jutting out from the strong stitched leather surface of the seat; six on either side. Quite insect-like. I can almost imagine the lounger scuttling to life, along with the many other beautifully crafted unusual chairs, stools and sculptures that are scattered throughout Fainstein’s spacious self-designed studio, for a social of sorts. Ambient down-tempo music fused with the fragrance of Nag Chandan incense certainly sets the scene. And each totally unique article has so much personality that one would anticipate the lot of them to have quite a time.
What makes Fainstein’s work more appealing still, is that many of the pieces are richly symbolic. As we shuffle through the studio, item by item, the individual works indeed become quite lively, as if stirred to attention by their maker’s energetic descriptions of how they came to be. ‘Evolve’, for example, is a steel bench that morphs from a generic-looking geometric-shaped seater into an organic, rhythmically patterned creature-like form.
‘Nature has provided us with iron ore which has been extracted from the earth and manufactured into steel for thousands of years. This piece begins with 3 lengths of 130mm x 10mm mild steel, representing the journey we have embarked on in building the machines, cities and nations that have shaped our reality and the world we live in today. Parallel to our current situation, the sculpture begins to go through a change, a shift or a metamorphosis with it’s current trajectory that is no longer serving it. It changes course, and is redirected once again back to its true source, nature.’Alon Fainstein
The names of the pieces point to their various metaphorical meanings and Fainstein’s insights take the form of powerful visual narratives when considered with such in mind. ‘Emerge’ and ‘Connect’ are further striking examples of the artist’s wisdom personified in this way.
Fainstein brings fiery passion and fantastical imagination to the age-old craft of forging steel. Enthralling decorative functional art and compelling sculpture are the alchemical results of his crackling creativity combined with flaming-hot brute force. Every textured inch of metal, be it of a designer gate, an ornamental bowl, a Viking fire pit or a throne, has been pounded, pressed or punched by a tool molded by the blacksmith himself, at smouldering temperatures.
Fainstein calls this sweaty business ‘play’. Yet, once materialised, these masterpieces appear to embody the same precision of vision that can be witnessed in the balance and beauty reflected in the artist’s stellar studio, his stylish home as well as his consciously crafted lifestyle. Fascinating then, that Fainstein claims to avoid planning ahead when working on projects other than consignments. Through inspiration, mindful practice, and skilled expertise in the craft, Fainstein’s dynamic works emerge.