Clarke and Reilly present a short film which showcases their uniquely romantic and brutal approach to design
“The world is on fire but we have both had a chance to reassess, slow down. We see this in the changes and shifts in society as it responds,” says David Grocott, one half of Clarke and Reilly, the bespoke furniture designers. Together with partner Bridget Dwyer, director Alexa Karolinski, and DJ James Lavelle (UNKLE), Grocott unveils the new film, AD2021, which represents an enigmatic and evocative exploration of their new collection, two years in the making.
It began with the ancient, iconic dye indigo, which became a wall of fabric upon which an environment was built to showcase 11 new works and seven rare objects including a Russian icon and an Ethiopian Coptic cross. “When creating the environment, half the work is done in my studio but the next piece of work happens in the space,” Grocott says. “I know when it is complete as a body [of work] and then I take it somewhere to become something else.”
Clarke and Reilly partners Grocott and Dwyer create private residences, installations, and commissioned pieces that defy simple categorisation. With an eye toward the simultaneously romantic and brutal, Grocott crafts period textiles, furniture, and objects while Dwyer is the driving force behind how and where the works will be seen.
The film was shot on location inside 7000 Romaine, the former Los Angeles headquarters of legendary tycoon Howard Hughes. “I wanted an air of the unexpected. As if someone slightly unhinged lived there,” Grocott reveals. “What really drew me to the building was the attention to detail. It has been meticulously preserved, cared for in a way that makes it feel modern. It’s beautiful and brutal in it’s own right. It was chosen pre-Covid in January 2020 yet the building was created by someone who lived in fear of a pandemic. That was a coincidence for us.”
For AD2021, they chose three rooms with no natural light that had a sterile nature and became challenging and uncomfortable to be in for an extended length of time. The arrangement of the works and objects in the space was an integral part of the creative process itself. “‘Positioning’ is fundamental,” Grocott says. “That’s what really gives it that extra emotion.”
In the environment, they placed an 18th-century English Wing Chair covered in silk, hand-dyed with Indian indigo, and completed with hand-stitched detail; a 19th-century Arts and Crafts chair finished with horsehair squib; a 1960s moulded fibreglass chair layered in cement and canvas; a 1950s Italian cabinet with panels originated as disregarded painted canvas found in a nondescript school in northern England; a farmhouse table soaked in indigo ink covered in cement and consummated in layers of enamel traditionally used in agricultural machinery.
The pieces all wear time to their advantage, age adding to their layers. “It’s meant to improve with age,” Grocott says. “The more you use it and connect with it, it holds more value. The fading, the way it wears, that is intentional. I start with an antique and bring it into the present moment through the application of the layers.”
With AD2021, Karolinski explores these ideas with depth and nuance, allowing what exists to reveal itself rather than to impose upon the environment. “What we ended up with was not exactly what we set out to do,” Grocott says. “Originally we thought it would be a documentation but it’s more of an art film. It embodies the same feeling as my thinking; not overt, a little restrained, a little tentative while simultaneously being bold and unapologetic; it’s a strange tension. In that way, it’s quite autobiographical.”
The music of James Lavelle, combined with the voice of LA-based collector and dealer David Cruz (Blackman Cruz), who lent antiquities from his personal art and sculpture collection to the film, adds another layer of emotion and feeling to the journey. “There’s a definite connection in Lavelle’s work with what I try to do – how things build, layer, distort. The notes are just slightly off, it’s very similar to how I try to create things,” Grocott says. “We have a history and friendship too – he knows our sinister and romantic nature.”
In total AD2021 is very much in keeping with the spirit of the times – an intense, alternately illuminating and unsure landscape of the past and the present melding into a future that is anything but certain. “There was something very freeing about the constraints within which it was happening,” Grocott says. “A freedom to do what you want, no fear about who was going to come and who was not. There was less expectation. It all played together beautifully.”
AD2021 is a short film presented by Clarke and Reilly, realised in collaboration with Alexa Karolinski and James Lavelle, featuring David Cruz.