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“Chinese Design Today” at the Themes & Variations gallery in London.
David Franchi – Saturday, 1st December 2012
“the current renaissance of Chinese artistic creativity”
“Chinese Design Today” is the major selling event ever held in London, ongoing at Themes & Variations gallery in Notting Hill.
The contemporary Chinese design is certainly a new arrival on the Western art and design market. The Themes & Variations gallery commissioned this exhibition to a lively group of designers. “Chinese Design Today” offers a unique insight into the forms, reinterpretations and narratives that have emerged from post-Mao China in the fields of furniture, textile and ceramics.
The designers involved in the Themes & Variations exhibition are heading the current renaissance of Chinese artistic creativity previously manacled by the Cultural Revolution of Mao. China is already an influencing world power nation. “Chinese Design Today” marks the reawakening of skill and craftsmanship gives rise to a more expressive and thoughtful modern cultural movement.
The group of Chinese designer, or artists, involved “China Design Today” is composed by eleven artists, including Shao Fan; Li Lihong; July Chow ; Yang Ke; Jia Li; Xiao Tianyu; Gu Yeli; Li Naihan andZhang Zhoujie.
Shao Fan is a leader figure in this movement. He was one of the first to bring together traditional Chinese furniture techniques and modern day design practices, exploring the boundaries between visual art and design. As a sculptor and painter who experiments with various media, Shao Fan combines incongruous styles, mixing elements of classical Ming chairs (revered in ancient China as works of art) with materials such as acrylic. A highlight of the V&A collection, his ‘Deconstructed’ chairs, notably his ‘Chair King’, express the cultural changes and contrasts facing China today.
Li Lihong applies Chinese ceramic painting traditions to porcelain shapes to create striking sculptures which mimic today’s most iconic consumer brands and designs such as Apple, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Nike, as a way of commenting on China’s current preoccupation with global trends and Western lifestyle.
Imprisoned in the 1970s for his anti-revolutionary activism, July Chow gives a radical new twist to antique Chinese furniture designs
from the Imperial dynasties by combining accents of hand-carved wood with plexiglass. Similarly, the fanciful jet fighters clad in feathers, caged in conventional Chinese birdcages by Yang Ke, the perspex box stools enclosing traditional red Chinese lantern silk by Jia Li, and classical Chinese chair backs anchored onto beanbag-type seats by Xiao Tianyu, all reinvigorate the tradition of past design idioms and techniques previously severed by the Cultural Revolution.
In a different vein, award-winning artist Gu Yeli adorns discarded chairs and benches found on the roadside with colourful wool. Her reinvented furniture from salvaged items pays homage to the harsh deprivation experienced in post-war China. More radically, Li Naihan links the tribulations of the Communist-generated diaspora with the frequency with which the present government, seemingly at will, uproots large sections of the population from their homes. Her furniture inspired by wooden shipping crates disassembles and packs up to become the crate itself.
Zhang Zhoujie, by contrast, has shrugged off the cultural legacy completely, and is a shining force of design embracing new technology. He represents the population eager to enjoy the consumables afforded by technological advances. His futuristic tables and chairs are created digitally, integrating the latest computer technology and mathematical logic with Wu Wei, one of the principles of Taoism meaning ‘lack of intervention’.
Themes & Variations opened in Notting Hill in 1984. It has been recognised as a leading specialist in Post-War and Contemporary design. Gallerist Liliane Fawcett was one of the first in London to open a space focusing entirely on design. Originally known as the exclusive UK dealer for Fornasetti, the gallery displays works by a wide range of designers with a particular focus on French, Italian and Scandinavian furniture and decorative arts.
“Chinese Design Today” gives an intersting view about the design of China.
From 8th November until 8th December 2012.
At the Themes & Variations gallery, 231 Westbourne Grove, London, W11 2SE.