May 31st, 2011 _ _
I adore going into the Conran shop on rue du Bac because I find my favourite table straight away, and then emmm…..no this one is more my favourite…. but hang on…..this other one I really love the best….. and so on. Rather like a teenager’s favourite song(s) .
But eventually, like a teenager with their favourite song, I settle on “the one”. For me it is Mathew Hilton‘s Light Table. What first attracted me to it was the pattern of the table-top which is something that I couldn’t appreciate in internet images. The walnut wood is in narrow bands across the meter’s width of the table, so the natural crazy wood pattern has a light, tight contemporary rhythm. The other sculptural quality that drew me to it, (apart from it’s obviously superior craftsmanship), is the way that the table appears to lightly spring up or hover over the ground from when the leg forks off into two toes.
Made of engineered solid wood in either oak or walnut, this table comes in three lengths and also an oval version. It’s extensible with fluid movements and is constructed by the master craftsmen at De La Espada factory in Portugal. I spend several weeks a year in Portugal, so I was delighted when I came across the above photo, showing the familiar old Portuguese architecture and the contemporary light table. I knew that this is just the setting that I would like to invite people to have dinner in.
May 24th, 2011 _ _
This 18th century Chippendale table valued at £500,000 was stolen from Newby hall in Ripon England in 2007. Perhaps they should be searching for a flip flop wearer that has a thing for James Brolin.
May 17th, 2011 _ _
Star of the show in Bon Marché at the moment is the misleadingly simple Arco table Nomad, designed by Jorre Van Ast. The first thing that I noticed about it was it’s pencil style legs with screw threads at the top for joining them to the table top. Normally this table top would need to be thick and heavy but when you stand over it the table top appears to be impossibly thin. Then look at it from a distance or sit down beside it and the sublime simple 3D bulge of it’s underbelly reveals itself. As you move around it the changes in direction of the lines in the oak veneer bring out this curve, without this it would be tricky to understand how the bump bulges. I imagine that while you’re sitting by this table your hands would spend quite a while stroking it’s underbelly.
It’s construction is pure woodsman rocket science. The legs are made of ash and the core is a cellulose honeycomb with balsa and poplar wood, and finally the aforementioned perfectly curved oak veneer. Tough and light, this highly mobile table has just the right measure of non-ostentatious sophistication for urbanites on the move.
May 10th, 2011 _ _
Ai Weiwei is a Chinese artist, architect and activist who is probably best known for the Olympic bird’s nest stadium in Beijing that he designed with Herzog and de Meuron. This week he will have an important opening in the Lisson gallery in London . Unfortunately he is unlikely to attend as he has been “disappeared” by the Chinese authorities since April the 3rd. This is not the first time that this has happened, after a previous disappearance he required brain surgery as a result of his beatings. Many of Ai Weiwei’s entourage have also vanished.
His father Ai Quing was a much loved Chinese poet. At the age of one his family were sent to a labour camp for 16 years after Ai Quing and his wife were denounced for rightist activities. When he was twenty four years old Ai Weiwei went to New York only returning to Beijing when his father was ill. His father said to him when he was dying ,”China is your country, you don’t have to be polite.” These words were taken to heart. Like his father before him he has brought together politics and art. China, it’s people and their culture, is most central to his oeuvre. He takes a traditional element of Chinese culture, then rebuilds it through contemporary eyes.
The “furniture” series is crafted from valuable tables from the Ming and Quing dynasties. These were originally built using carpentry techniques where the pieces of wood are slotted together like a 3D puzzle. Daring to operate on such highly charged historical objects ,he had them taken apart by Chinese master craftsmen. Then he reconfigured them using the same joinery principles, creating new objects. Something that appears impossible because it defies expectations, yet highly plausible through it’s expert craftsmanship and a rich visual language.
These challenges to traditional space, is more about potential that certitudes and such is the fate of Ai Weiwei.
May 3rd, 2011 _ _
Originally from Switzerland, Meret Oppenhiem was one of the women active in the surrealist movement in Paris in the 1930′s. It has been said that “Traccia” the bird leg table speaks of the lady like pastime of taking tea, and the gesture of offering up a tray in a feminine fashion. Personally I think it speaks more strongly of a feral Parisian life style on café terraces surrounded by pigeons. Apart from those famous birds legs there are also traces of an enormous birds foot prints on the oval table top. I can’t exactly imagine a domestic goddess allowing her tea things to be set down where a stork could hop up and trample them. It’s more likely the domain of a Wable under the table straight out of Dr. Seuess, tempting people with green eggs and ham .
There is another lovely example of Oppenhiem freeing up refinement through anthropomorphism, her famous fur covered cup and saucer and here is how it came to be. Apparently she was in a café with artists Pablo Picasso and Dora Maar when Picasso admired Oppenhiem’s fur bangle . He remarked that you could cover anything with fur, and her reply was that you could even fur cover the cup, saucer and spoon that was in front of them on the table.
Traccia is roughly the size of a café table with polished bronze legs. The oval table top with clam prints is gold leafed on the upper side, and the wooden underside is painted with gold coloured paint. Nowadays there is a silver version too. Originally designed in 1939 it has been re-edited since 1971. Be careful of the price that you pay for it, it should be possible to buy for around 2000€ but I have seen these go for far more surreal prices at auction, well maybe they were one that can lays eggs.