With a history dating back to 1863, Bernardaud is one of the world's few remaining family-owned and operated manufacturers of fine porcelain - now in its fifth generation. However, far from remaining rooted in the past (while continuing to produce the exquisite traditional designs that have graced the grandest tables for almost 150 years), the company constantly explores new ways of using porcelain - often through relationships with contemporary artists.
The collaboration between the company and the Swiss ceramic artist Magdalena Gerber seems a natural alliance. In her work, says Gerber, she explores how images, objects, imagination and reality relate to each other - as well as her role as a catalyst for the exchange of stories. In its ambiguity and gentle provocation, Gerber's work shares a drop of Surrealist DNA with Piero Fornasetti, whose plates bearing the portrait of Lina Cavalieri have become icons (in the correct sense of the word) of 20th-century applied arts.
This plate, called Phares (headlights) is one of a set of six, all different, that comprise Gerber's Camera Obscura collection. Each features a mundane moment from everyday life - a couple on a pedestrian crossing; a mobylette rider, a person under an umbrella - viewed from the angle of an apartment window (we assume) and captured as a video still. And yet, there is something deeply enigmatic - almost furtive - about these apparently ordinary moments: who are these people, where have they come from, what is their purpose? Since every plate is different, every guest gathered around the dinner table - a natural place for conversation - will have a different story.
Some may be tempted to keep these plates as collector's items - perhaps displayed on a wall. To my mind, not to use them as part of a dinner service is a missed opportunity for an intriguing evening. Camera Obscura, set of six plates in a limited edition of 1,000 by Bernardaud, Dh2,250 available to order from Tanagra at Wafi (04 324 2340), Mall of the Emirates (04 341 1084), Marina Mall Abu Dhabi (02 681 7506) and Al Jamal Stores (02 6272117)