Technology and color converge in artist Felipe Pantone’s latest watch collaboration


Argentinian-Spanish artist Felipe Pantone excels at distilling the internet age. His clean, chromatic works can give the impression that an elegant computer virus has somehow spread out of the machine and digitized reality. He may have a penchant for science fiction, but his worldview is far from dystopian. He finds beauty in the flow of data, but his work is also inspired by the kinetic movement and blurring of modernity.

Pantone (b. 1986) honed his skills as a teenage graffiti artist before art school, so his graphic sensibility is an interesting amalgam of his dichotomous upbringing. The Valencia-based artist also happens to be a huge watch geek, which made him the perfect collaborator for Swiss luxury watchmaker Zenith. In 2021 they launched a limited run of the futuristic Defy 21 series from the manufacture; it immediately sold out.

Now, for its latest team-up with Zenith, Pantone has riffed on its “Planned Iridescence” series of holographic works to produce the Defy Extreme Felipe Pantone, available October 27 and limited to 100 numbered pieces. At the heart of this futuristic vision is a fleeting burst of color that comes not only from reflection and glare off the angular mirror-polished stainless steel case, but also from the synthetic sapphire crystal that envelops the face. The underside of this highly refractive glass slyly bears micro-etched patterns barely 100 nanometers deep. The effect is a secret hologram for the wearer, who can also switch from translucent blue silicone to stainless steel or black velcro by pressing a button on the back.

We recently spoke with the artist about the watches, the art, and how each reflects the dynamism of life.

Mysterious artist Felipe Pantone sticks to his graffiti roots and obscures his identity. Courtesy of Zenith.

I like that you show restraint. This watch doesn’t scream “artist collaboration,” where you flex and saturate every element of it. The design is chic and the wearer never gets tired of it.

Thanks. Ultimately, it is a utilitarian object; it is not just a work of art. So you want to create something that’s wearable, actually tells the time, and makes sense as a watch. You wouldn’t buy it just because it’s an artist collaboration, would you? You want to buy a good watch. I love watches. I really pay attention to what is published. I would like my watch to be something that makes sense in the world of watchmaking, not just because it is an artist collaboration.

The Defy Extreme Pantone edition with the steel bracelet.  Courtesy of Zenith.

The Defy Extreme Pantone edition with the steel bracelet. Courtesy of Zenith.

I really like the colors you’re working with, especially the semi-transparent blue stripe. The result is very modern. Tell me about the vision for this watch.

I have a wide range of colors in my work, but I tend to use colors more towards the cool end of the spectrum than the warm end. So blue is still very important. If you look at the logos of technology companies and even operational systems, they tend to have more blue in them. It’s something that I take into account to try to convey this idea of ​​current digital times. We managed to make a laser etched hologram on a piece of sapphire that only reveals when viewed in the right light, much like a radial CD effect. Even if you wear the watch and you don’t have the right light on it, you won’t see it. I’m very proud of it because it took time to develop. It is influenced by my “Planned Iridescence” series, for which I created an acrylic type material printed on both sides. With effects, I can organize the iridescence of the material so that it moves horizontally, vertically, even rotates. It is therefore a technique that I applied to this watch.

Solo exhibition by Felipe Pantone in New York in 2022 Metallic Contact at Albertz Benda.  Courtesy of the artist.

An installation view of Felipe Pantone’s solo exhibition ‘Metallic Contact’, at Albertz Benda, New York (2022). Courtesy of the artist.

Interestingly, a lot of your work deals with technology, and watches are a confluence of old-world tradition and cutting-edge machinery. Watch companies are on an endless quest to perfect and advance internal workings. They are anachronistic and futuristic at the same time.

People who appreciate art, we tend to appreciate beauty and technology. It’s fascinating what humans are capable of, especially on such a small scale. Every time I go to the Swiss factory, my mind is blown.

With this watch, you can actually see what’s going on inside the movement. It reminds you that nothing stands still, that everything keeps moving and changing. It resonates with the themes I usually work with.

Harnessing the prism: the Defy Extreme Felipe Pantone.  Courtesy of Zenith

Harnessing the prism: the Defy Extreme Felipe Pantone. Courtesy of Zenith

You grew up doing graffiti and then went to art school. Did one of them strike you more than the other?

I don’t think one is more important than the other. Everything is learned. I started doing graffiti when I was 12. I have done graffiti for over 20 years. When I was 18, I went to art school, and it was very educational because art is not a thing in my family. My father was an ironworker and my mother, she cleaned or helped my father. I learned what it meant to be an artist in art school. I learned about the art world in art school. I studied art history. So that was very important to me as well. Graffiti has taught me everything from painting techniques, to connections, to the world, to traveling without money and free sleeping on the couches of people all over the world. Art school taught me what making art really was – I had no idea, because in my opinion graffiti has very little to do with art. It’s more of a game, where you play against other graffiti artists to see who plays more and in more places. So I learned about art history and how I could somehow contribute or try to contribute to the art world.

I also think graffiti can be a bit more graphic, whereas with art you learned to put more ideas into the work and bring them to life.

Absolutely. I learned graphic design with graffiti. I learned letters, typography, color and large format painting. However, I didn’t learn anything about the concepts, and that’s all art is, in my opinion. That’s all that matters, really. concepts.

Public Installation by Felipe Pantone rapid tide in the Greenwich Peninsula in London. Photo by Charles Emerson.

The dialogue around your art is often that it’s connected to technology and the modern world. I was wondering if you’ve had a reboot – like many of us have had over the past two years – where you’ve reconnected with nature more than before?

I think my work is changing. Before, I was trying to convey this idea of ​​how I felt in the current era, which was my life. I felt like a very contemporary person, didn’t I? Because I used to travel a lot and I used to be very connected with a lot of people because of my background as a graffiti artist. But I connected much more with nature. I have to stay more at home and in my studio, thinking. I think the work I do now is much more minimalist. I’m also working a lot more on transformation, which doesn’t necessarily have to do with speed anymore, not as much as before. I tend towards more harmonious compositions.

Well, looks like you’re in a happy place, spiritually speaking.

I am a happy person, very good! I do what I love every day and my work keeps evolving. It is important for us to continue to grow. I have no idea where my job or my life is going to take me. It excites me. I like this feeling of uncertainty.

Learn more about the collaboration by visiting Zenith here.

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