The festive period is generally associated with the word more. However, this doesn’t mean that fans of less are excluded from all the fun. Perfectly timed for the gifting season, Sydney-based artist Tarek Elkassouf has created a chess set that will make those who prefer less and want more.
Beirut-born, Sydney-based artist Tarek Elkassouf has put his own unique twist on the game of chess by creating a set stripped bare and made with material-focused minimalism in mind. The artist said he wanted to give creative freedom for players to interpret and imagine themselves, as each of the pieces within the set.
“It is a game in art, but more, a piece crafted in stone and metal that becomes an altar to concentration. I feel that there is so much happening on the chessboard, 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 minds,” said Tarek.
In making his minimalistic chess set, Tarek stripped away as much of the visual obstruction as possible. His goal is to allow players to re-imagine the mundane – seeing the beauty in it and making the mundane beautiful for people.
Tarek Elkassouf is only producing 100 chess sets, and these comprise four board variations, Carrara Marble, Basalt, Travertino Classico, and Travertino Rosso. Each piece is a minimalist rectangle soldier with symbols of classical chess pieces inscribed into the top. The playing pieces have been made using stainless steel, brass, oxidised brass and gunmetal, and each of the sets is housed in a high gloss wooden box with velvet lining.
“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.
Adding, “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 historical 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, which came about when he found an old board in the family home as a six-year-old.
“I was fascinated by the shape of the pieces. I was fascinated by the small pieces and the characters they represented. It is something that is very close to my heart: the beauty of chess is it can be whatever you want it to be.”
Tarek Elkassouf said he 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 creates 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.”
About Tarek Elkassouf
Tarek Elkassouf’s studio specialises in creating exquisite items that bestride sculpture, architecture, and collectable objects, each one created using precise traditional Middle Eastern craftsmanship.
His work has been commissioned by international museums such as the Institute of the Arab World in France, and the Ithra Museum in Saudi Arabia. He is represented in galleries and museums in the Middle East, Asia, America, and Europe. In addition to this, Elkassouf has also collaborated with international luxury brands including Cartier.
For more information on Tarek Elkassouf and his minimalistic chess sets, please visit his website at www.tarekelkassouf.com.
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