Studio Ibbini

Our only maker from the UAE so far Julias work is mesmerising. The intricate details reminiscent of ancient sculptures are created by harnessing technology at its peak.

Studio Ibbini

Edition 5 Feature
Words by: Julia Ibbini 
Location: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates  
Photo Credit : ©Julia Ibbini @juliaibbini 

My work explores historical ornament through a contemporary lens, using algorithms and new technologies to create intricate works that intersect art, design and engineering. The work is a collaborative effort with Stéphane Noyer, who is a computer scientist and engineer, and we are based in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. 

I have long been interested in design, graphics and collage and have always worked with computers. Earlier on in my practice, I worked with the idea of layering and meshing parts together, but the layers remained in the digital realm. The end result was often a print, which flattened all of the depth I’d been playing with. When I began working with laser machines and 3D printers in recent years, it allowed me to take this depth that I had been developing digitally to a very tactile and tangible place. 

My work continues to become more complex, with more layers, and even moving into three-dimensional sculptural forms. Designing and producing the pieces now requires a more technical – sometimes even mathematical – approach. 

As we evolve in a space at the intersection of art, design and engineering, we often run up against the limits of what commercial tools are intended to achieve. Having a software engineer in the studio allows us to develop solutions to extend or bridge gaps between existing applications. This input is also really interesting from a creative point of view, as some algorithmic concepts and techniques can bring a lot to the practice. For example, we’ve worked with computational tree structure and graph theory algorithms, parametric design and developable surfaces with fascinating results. 

Another aspect where we try to push the boundaries is with the materials that we use and how we use them. I love using materials in new or unusual ways: for example, taking veneer wood intended to be applied flat on solid wall panels and cutting it as fine as lace to curve it into a flowing sculptural form. 

Even though we use machines extensively during the production process, the pieces always start from hand-drawn elements and the end result is always assembled by hand, which can take hundreds of hours and as much skill as the rest of the process. I want the work to have that element of being crafted – that someone’s hand was there. There is something quite beautiful in that. 

I’ve lived in Abu Dhabi for most of my life and it’s a great place to live and work. I spend a lot of time wandering around in both urban and rural spaces here. There is so much to soak up for inspiration, if you know where to look – from the streets of UAE cities, where dozens of nationalities converge to form a rich visual culture, to the vast raw expanses of the nearby Hajar mountain range and the endlessly shifting sands of the desert. 

I’ve never wanted to do anything else other than be an artist. I worked in marketing for over a decade and while it was good work and great life experience, I was quite unhappy for much of the time, as if some giant piece of my life was missing. 

studio ibbini