A chess set stripped bare, refined and redefined in material-focused minimalism, has been created by sculptor and object designer Tarek Elkassouf.
The Beirut-born, Sydney-based artist, said he was given creative freedom to players to interpret, imagine themselves, the characters of the chess pieces.
“It is a game in art, but more, a piece crafted in stone and metal that becomes an altar to concentration,” Elkassouf said.
“I feel on the chessboard, there is so much happening, but you want to focus on something important, the game, the moment.
The physical and cognitive investment in the strategy.
“I have neutralised everything. Everything is frozen. Just standing.
“I felt the ornament was too much.
“I am giving creative freedom to the players to decide how the pieces will look in their own mind.”
So he stripped away the visual obstruction to concentration, following his cynosure: – re-imagining the mundane – seeing the beauty in it, and making the mundane beautiful for people around him.
The pieces, minimalist rectangle soldiers with symbols of classical chess pieces inscribed into the top, are cut from Stainless Steel, Brass, Oxidised Brass and Gunmetal.
There are four variations of boards, made from Carrara Marble, Basalt, Travertino Classico, and Travertino Rosso.
The sets come ensconced in a high gloss wooden box with velvet lining.
Only 100 sets will be crafted.
“I want the chess lovers to sit in front of this chessboard. I want them to connect, with serenity, focus, and be free of judgement”, he said.
“You feel the tension without distraction. You feel all the different emotions over this board.
“And all the materials come from the Earth. They hold the energy of the Earth. The Basalt with that of the volcano eruptions.
“And Carrara’s historic connection with classical sculptures.
“I approach the form through materiality. The material itself communicates the form of the pieces.”
Elkassouf’s work is the antithesis of his first introduction and fascination with chess, his love of the complexity and detail of the pieces, when as a six-year-old he found an old board in the family home.
“I was fascinated by the shape of the pieces. I was fascinated by the small pieces and the characters they represented,” he said.
“This is an object that is very close to my heart: the beauty of chess is it can be whatever you want it to be.”
Elkassouf said he now loves chess because winning is far from the point.
“It is the opposite of how we treat daily life – we treat it as a zero-sum game. A series of wins.
“Chess teaches us life is a journey and creating quality time and valuable relationships.
“It is inter-generational: fathers playing with sons, mothers with their daughters, grandfathers with grandsons.
“They all meet together at this board.”