The dark and mysterious stone Obsidian is particularly extraordinary when sourced from Armenia, where it is known for its unique translucency and high sheen. Michel der Agobian was the first to tap these reserves in 2004 and in collaboration with the curator Jean-Baptiste Sibertin-Blanc, who has a particular fascination with the glass, commissioned 13 artists to look at obsidian with contemporary eyes. We showcase these striking creations that are on show at Galerie Pierre-Alain Challier, Paris.

“Born millions of years ago on the slopes of Mount Ararat in Armenia, obsidian was first created when a lava flow met with water and suddenly cooled. In a day when what we make is governed by advanced technology and complicated economic structures, why go back to one of mankind's earliest raw materials? I love materials; and obsidian is a mineral, a stone, a perfect glass that I find fascinating. A few years ago, in an exhibition I called "La Matière des Lieux" ("A Sense of Place"), I attempted an unlikely showcase of ten projects from France and abroad in which not just local culture but local living matter contributed the broad strokes of my drawings. When I met Michel der Agobian of cub-ar, I told him how I wished to present and explore this particular material from added points of view, calling on friends and artists from a rich variety of professions—goldsmith, architect, sculptor, designer—people whose work and purpose are also all about material and craft. Prehistoric man made use very early on of obsidian for tools, for living. And there has been such a thing as design ever since we became human. "Visions of Obsidian" is thirteen intersecting tales that invite us to rediscover this material, through different cultures that open like so many doors into the museum of our imaginations.

- Jean-Baptiste Sibertin-Blanc, Exhibition Curator


Mathilde Bretillot, Designer
Centerpiece: "Swan Lake"
Obsidian and glass
"The 'wings' play with obsidian's opacity and transparency, creating a fluid choreography. Set on a bright-colored, frosted glass disk, the shapes seems to skate and highlight the composition."

Roland Daraspe, Goldsmith, Maître d'art (French Grand Master)
Spinning top: "Vortex"
Obsidian and silver
"Slabs and boulders and ore trapped in its matrix—from these the obsidian and silver spring forth in a whirling eddy."

Marion Fillancq, Compagnon verrier (European Glassmaking Diploma)
Sculpture: "Crognongnon"
Obsidian and bronze
"Prehistoric man shaped stone to serve his needs, and it seems we are still shaping it for new purposes."

Olivier Gagnere, Interior Architect
Candelabra: "Carousel"
Obsidian and 18 carat gold plate
"Darkness and transparency are the words that come to mind when I look at obsidian. So it seemed so obvious to me to relate this material to light and the golden metal that reflects it. The candlestick carries the light that chases away the gloom; the lantern holds in light that escapes, through the transparency of the obsidian."

Christian Ghion, Designer
Vase: "Mineral Vibration"
Obsidian
"A mineral vibration, a shock wave, and reference to a seismogram."

Tetsuo Harada, Sculptor
"Coiling"
Obsidian
"I was attracted by simple shapes, just two or three that nest and intertwine. I imagined showing the elegance of obsidian, a material with a certain nobility along with its softness and purity."

Arik Levy
"Absence"
Obsidian

Patrick Nadeau, Architect
Vase: "Eruption"
Obsidian and crystal
"Obsidian is beautiful in slab form, as a fragment of vitrified lava, black, opaque and reflective. Once machined, to a fine thinness, it becomes transparent, precious, luminous, crossed with mysterious striping and emitting a kind of strangeness. Are we looking at stone or glass? "Eruption" is an assembly of coarse rock, polished rock and colored crystal. The crystal emerges from the obsidian and the two materials meld into a faded color. This is a vase. It relates the vegetable to the mineral, evoking pioneer plants that colonize the lava fields."

Elie Papiernik, Designer
Bestiary: "The Zebra"
Obsidian, stainless steel and wood
"This is a zebra, treated as a logo. Its outline is made of stainless. The outline forms a frame and will hold the obsidian. The obsidian imitates, in its natural state, the markings on the animal. To make very plain that the zebra is not real, the frame is empty between the front and rear portions . . ."

Nestor Perkal, Interior architect
"Triptych Mirror"
Obsidian and steel
"Mexican obsidian is jet black, while that of Armenia is amber. The piece I have imagined juxtaposes these two worlds. It is a mirror, or rather, an object that plays with reflection. Two grimacing and translucent masks inspired by pre-Columbian civilization surround a magic mirror with an opaque surface. This triptych conveys the strangeness and expressive power of obsidian, which here is cut from the block."

Sylvain Rieu-Piquet, Designer and visual artist
"Black Shadow"
Obsidian
"Like Incan sacrificial knives, this is a ceremonial sword, caught in the duality of an object at once dangerous and precious, perhaps fragile. But this shadow-like weapon will cut. A secret murderess. The evanescent blackness of obsidian holds within it stealthy, cruel intentions."

Jean-Baptiste Sibertin-Blanc, Designer
Vase: "Nearly Perfect Chaos"
Obsidian and gold-plated bronze
"Anyone who has seen lava flow down the sides of Mt. Etna will remember the power of the flames and earth's guts spilling out. But after the flood—balance is restored."

Flavien Thery, Designer
"The Door"
Obsidian, modified LCD screen, medium and lacquered beech
"Obsidian was used by the Aztecs to make dark mirrors used for fortune-telling. Maybe that is why it symbolizes the passage between two worlds. Here the stone is set in light, the better to plumb its mysteries. As an object of fascination it therefore gives us a glimpse into a hidden dimension, a parallel universe that it seems to contain, concentrating all of space within its finite volume."