Wang & Söderström: digital art for the physical world

For the duo behind this Copenhagen-based design studio, inspiration comes from software updates, emerging technologies and the peace of their back garden.
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For most artists, inspiration changes but the medium generally stays the same – a paintbrush won't grow new bristles and a canvas will stay static. However, for digital creatives like artists Anny Wang and Tim Söderström, who often start their process in software programs, it's a different story – an update provides new tools that can expand their capabilities and, in turn, provide new inspiration for what the medium can offer.

‘We want to work with new technology for the right reasons,’ says Tim. ‘We want to give it a twist and maybe we can be at the edge of something new.’

Anny and Tim are the Sweden-born, Copenhagen-based couple behind design studio Wang & Söderström, known for their hyperreal 3D animations and illustrations, as well as their work for the likes of sound-system makers Sonos, and products for companies such as home goods brand Hay. Their designs are whimsical and sensuous, ranging from a bulbous flower vase to an animated tablescape with tumbling abstract ‘food’ – the aim is to investigate and portray the digital and ecological shift, through material objects and evolving technology. They're part of a new generation of digital creatives who are evolving alongside the software medium they work with, shaping a new aesthetic and experience of the digital.

‘Our studio is based on this belief that the digital should be softer and more sensual, closer to our senses,’ says Anny.

Creativity 3.0

The pair's work is rooted in their experiences growing up with one foot in the digital world and one in the physical. ‘We remember the home phone, fax and floppy disk, but we were there when the technology really took off,’ says Anny.

Early on, as students, designers and architects in the 2010s, they began playing around with constantly evolving computer-assisted design (CAD) programs, building on their vision as user experience improved and new features rolled out. There was a growing community of people using software that had previously been technically cumbersome.

‘This was a time where the software started to give more direct feedback,’ says Tim. ‘Computers were starting to get good enough to show – in a more intuitive way – what you were working on.’

Still, working and finding inspiration through technology can be a double-edged sword. Anny and Tim emphasize that they don't want to pick up a new tool just for the sake of it, but rather discover where it could fit into their universe. Take 3D printing, for example – while the technology has been around for some time, it's often used for architectural or industrial purposes. Anny and Tim used the tech to turn their hyperreal 3D renderings of textured shapes into tangible objects for their 2017 exhibition Transitional Speculation, blurring the line between physical and digital.

‘There's potential to print something that's constructionally not smart, but the technique has an aesthetic value in itself,’ says Tim. ‘That's our approach, rather than the coder, who can see its optimization.’

Bringing the inside out 

Working with these mediums has also impacted where they work best. Just before the pandemic, the couple had opened a large public-facing office in Copenhagen's hip, busy Nørrebro neighborhood. However, over the past two years, the couple has ‘embraced their introvert side’, according to Anny – being able to settle in their own space has been conducive to their creative process, which was often interrupted by the more social obligations of a studio in a central area. They're also building a studio at home, where they can easily get offline, work in the garden and reconnect with themselves.

‘The space is very much a reflection of how we want our work to be in our reality,’ says Tim. ‘It should be in this rough, unpolished world filled with dust and fingerprints but also, at the same time, we have computers that are quite sensitive, so we have space for that.’

Even this move has provided inspiration. They're working on an upcoming show where the main theme is ‘home’ – their next challenge is to help people make sense of how the often invisible virtual world shapes our most intimate spaces.

‘Home is connected to our body, our data, our physical home and the planet,’ says Anny. ‘How can you make data like that visible and understandable?’

This article was first published in Courier issue 48, August/September 2022. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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