Saturday, October 31, 2009

September at the V&A

I've made several visits to the V&A in September and each time have come across something new beyond the exhibition that I had gone to see.
The Chair Arch in the courtyard garden was based on arches that were made to commemorate special occasions in Victorian Britain, usually made from local materials they also celebrated local industry. This arch is made from Ercol chairs. It was interesting to see how the public interacted with the arches, the children especially loved racing in and out of the structure. My favourite images of it are the close-ups where the arch is lost but the skeletal structure remains.
Rock Fusion Table and Rock Skin Rug by Arik Levy are on the ground floor of the Sackler Centre. I thought this was such a clever combination of the decorative with the functional. It's always worth taking a walk through the Sackler centre and looking to see what's going on in the education space.
was briefly installed in the tunnel entrance to the V&A. A collaboration between architect Ian Douglas-Jones and designer Ben Rousseau, it is a seating area based on the foil lined paper sacks in which tea leaves are transported to Britain and which are unrecycleable. Turning the ordinary into the extraordinary, waste into beauty. The smell was tantalising and the contrast between the brashness of the foil walls and the compressed bags as used for seating could hardly have been greater.
This piece of 'coffin lace' (below) was a real surprise to me. I've searched for the term on the Internet on a number of occasions but only ever come up with rather dull strips of false upholstery pins in single or double rows. This piece is fabulous, given by Julian Litten, museum number M.233-1984. Now that the V&A have digitised much of their collection I must do some browsing to see what else they have hidden away that is of interest to me.

In Praise of Shadows

In Praise of Shadows was shown as part of the London Design Festival at the V&A. Showcasing the work of 21 European designers it highlights the EU directive to phase out low-efficiency light bulbs from September 2009, the new efficient bulbs are often regarded as being harsh and unsympathetic but these designers prove that energy efficient light can also be beautiful.
Having been involved with the creation of the first incarnation of Sonumbra it was a real delight to see Sonumbra II by in full working glory in a darkened setting where the moving patterns of its display could be fully appreciated. The electroluminescent wire emits a cool blue light that races and chases according to the chosen computer programme, the effect is mesmerising. A real triumph of 21st century technology combined with traditional lacemaking techniques.
Lucid Dream by Eric Klarenbeek (Netherlands) plays on the ability of glass to transmit light by using it to spread the light from the source LEDs through the entire surface of the bubbles.

Fragile Future by Drift (Netherlands) combines an electrical system and LEDs with that most ethereal of natures creations - dandelion heads, to create a sculptural piece that spreads across the wall. The light here is soft and subtle but the overall effect is one of warmth and comfort.
Medusa by Mikko Paakkanen (Finland) is inspired by the movement of jellyfish. Constructed from fibre optic rods a micro-processor controlled motor slowly moves the rods so that the piece expands and contracts hypnotically. Fortunately the motor can be stopped at any desired point so it can be held in a chosen form.


Handbuilt, Presented by the Crafts Council at the Sackler Centre in the V&A. This small exhibition showcases the work of five UK based makers including Gary Breeze: Lettercutter and Ptolemy Mann: Woven Textiles.
Charlie Whinney (formerly sixixis) produced this superb sculpture of sinuously twisting wood. Their website is well worth a visit to see the range of work that they produce including lampshades and furniture.
I've seen a lot of beautiful glass recently so I was surprised by how taken I was with these pieces by Eleanor Long. Perhaps it was the way in which the echoed the curves of the works around them or possibly it was the subtlety of the light that hinted at the possibilities of what lay beyond. Small but beautifully formed these pieces could fit into any home but when the glass lines are used at full scale in architecture they are stunning (see her website).
Walter Jack Studio were also showing very sinuous work but this time in solid concrete. Designed as a retaining wall in to be built in sections the scale is given by the model figure in front of the right hand section of the image above, you need to look carefully! The actual blocks of concrete just cried out to be touched, not the normal response to this impersonal material.

What's It For?

What's it For? New work by Oxfordshire Basketmakers at Vale & Downland Museum, Wantage.
Product of an Iron Pour by Alison Berman gives a clue to the diverse range of mediums in which this group works, the moulds made of newspaper are almost as desirable as the finished product, I was especially taken with the way that Alison had left the pouring funnel to become the stand.
Jo Gilmour's Contraptions for colonising cubes are a continuing theme within Jo's work. Constructed from fine lengths of Phormium leaf, and attached to stout hazel rods, these tumbling clusters give wonderful shadows and a great sense of movement.
Grass Nest by Judith Ferns, made from decorative grasses this delicate little basket evokes the soft whispering of summer breezes.
In complete contrast are the Gourds by Alison Urwick, hard and solid yet whimsical and intricately decorated. Alison says she treats all problems as opportunities viewed from the wrong end, however you view them these pieces are a joy to behold.