The seat of art and design

by Ekatmata Sharma
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Twenty visual artists, architects and designers came together to collaborate and create 10 chairs in different mediums, thereby producing masterpieces. Ekatmata Sharma speaks to a few artists and designers, as they share the creative energies that went behind working together for a cause.

“Good art inspires; Good design motivates” rightly said Otl Aicher, a famous German designer. Art and design go hand in hand.  So, when India’s finest visual artists, architects and designers came together to collaborate, they created masterpieces. 10 chairs was a collective of installations in art and design raising funds for the 100 Good Karma Project run by Sonali Purewal, the founder and curator of 10 chairs. The first edition in Delhi of 10 chairs included works of Shakuntala Kulkarni and Sanjay Puri; Anita Dube and Madhav Raman; Bose Krishnamachari and Alex Davis; GR Iranna and Klove; Karl Antao and Gurjit Matharoo; Marcantonio and Scarlet Splendour; MartandKhosla and Gunjan Gupta; PuneetKaushik and AyushKasliwal; Valay Gada and Mandeep Nagi. “Gallery Espace has always done very experimental work. I love the idea of artists and designers coming together. Their work being displayed in the gallery has given a different dimension and perspective to the gallery,” shared Renu Modi, the director of Gallery Espace, where the sculptural works were exhibited.
The artists and designers shared the ideas that led to the creation of their version of the chair.

“O Phantom of liberty”
Anita Dubey and Madhav Raman

The artistic-duo goes a long way back in designing and collaborating projects together. This is the third time, they have come together and created ‘O Phantom of liberty’ chairs.  Two WC’s s sheathed in seductive purple velvet fabric with a mirror fitted inside the whole, on pressing the flush button one can hear the sound of applause. The chair artwork is inspired from the image of iconic dinner scene from the surrealist maestro Luis Bunuel’s 1974 film “The Phantom of Liberty”. “The scene goes like this. There is a social dinner at a bourgeoisie apartment, where the guests and are guided by the hosts to their ‘seats’ at the table. There is however, no food and no eating happening. The seats on which they sit are in fact WC’s!  The conversation moves from casual small talk to political, pollution and population. The scene is bizarre as we all come to a social gathering, discuss political and social issues and then we self congratulate. But when we do our business of going to the toilet, we ask someone very secretively, ‘Where is the toilet? We feel so liberated while doing our business, but there is a certain idea of social confirmation which we all slide into without knowing,” shared Madhav Raman of Anagram architects who has designed artist Anite Dube’s studio office, and a pavilion for Kochi Biennale.

“The Umbilical chair”
GR Iranna X Klove

A lit-up wooden chair is hanging from the ceiling with a flock of white birds (in hand-blown glass) tied up with metal chains. The sculptural chair is a visual representation of the relationship between humans and social influences. GR Iranna shared, “The birds are symbolic of a need to break free from the pressures that intertwine our lives daily. And the chair represents the social interactions we hold on to.” It’s the first time Iranna collaborated with an Interior designer and it was great learning experience for the artist. He said, “Artists negotiate ideas within themselves, so when a third person comes in that negotiation, it is difficult. But collaboration is about how to allow that negotiation to be part of it. It was a learning process for me, as I worked with different materials. As an artist you are in your cage, so working with other artists gives a new extension to your work.”

“Chairity starts at home”
Martand Khosla and Gunjan Gupta

Twenty-four playful tiny chairs-objects in materials like paper, brick, dust and brass reflect the world and its structures, while re-imagining seats. “We were serious about being playful. For three months we spent hours having fun while making the chairs. The fun extended to the names of the chairs, some of which include sofa-ltu, ek do teen chair, and in a bad mooda,” shared Martand Khosla, architect and artist. Agree, furniture designer Gunjan Gupta, “We approached the collaboration in playful, fun and inspirational way. Our work explores places and planes of rest – in both abstract and humorous ways. We bring together two materials central to our individual practices – brick dust and brass – in a fun collaboration.”

Both Gunjan and Martand have worked with art-forms that are exploring in nature. He works with buildings and architecture. She is inspired by objects and buildings. “The point of view of approaching life urbanization, our craft and materials is layered. Being an artist myself, I have respect for other artist’s practice. It’s very easy to agree there was no scope for disagreement.”

“The Anchorite’s Armchair: A Seat for the Soul”
Valay Gada and Mandeep Nagi

“’The Anchorite’s Armchair: A Seat for the Soul’ chair has many meanings to it. The chair has a halo around it, which symbolizes calm and saintly. The spikes define that a saint is sitting on spikes and still has a halo on the top. On other hand it represents a very delicate flower – Orchid, which is sitting on the spikes like an Ikebana. Since, orchid is Valay’s forte, we went ahead with this design,” told Mandeep, of Shades of India. Added Valay, “Floral is my forte, but we had to create something that speaks the same language. Mandeep has been working with textiles and I have been working with metals. Essentially, I made it in metal, keeping in touch the fragility.” The artwork reflected the tension between the often harsh reality of life and the delicacy of the internal spiritual journey. Mandeep told, “We thought of integrating the textiles within the body rather than having it as separates. It adds some softness to it. When I saw Valay’s work, I thought how good he is with metal. How easily he can give life to it. It was a learning experience for both of us.” Agree Valay, “Giving body and life to fabric is like taming an animal. It’s amazing to see a how limp material like textile can be moulded so easily.”  The marriage of the strength of metal and the softness of the fabric recreated the inevitable tensions of a modern urban life and the sublime solitude craved by the soul. This delicate Ikebana construct reveals the tensile strength of nature and of the human mind to recover and bloom.

“… and the fourth chair”
Bose Krishnamachari and Alex Davis

A minimalistic square white canvas in white Braille language and the brief note below reads – Please do not sit! Please do not touch! Please read CHAIR….

The “and the fourth chair” was inspired from the legendary conceptual artist, Joseph Kosuth’s and his most written about art work, ‘ONE AND THREE CHAIR’(1965). Visual artist Bose Krishnamachari said, “Alex and I discussed the kinds of chairs that were made in the world historically. We got inspired by the greatest conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth’s “One and three chairs”. In this work exhibited at the MoMA, Kosuth represented one chair in three ways, a chair as an object, a photograph of the chair in actual scale and as a copy of the dictionary definition of a chair, whereby completing all the three forms of perceptions. I have been using brail in my works since 1991. I have been working on the absurdities and adversities.”

Alex and Bose created the fourth chair with the help of Braille language, both artists trusted in inclusiveness and brought the sixth sense through white on white, the art- language, minimalism at its best. An ‘idea’ opened to the space to visually experience and sensitize slowly.  It is also seen it at its best of absurdity; the art you do not touch nor you can sit, and clearly do not look like a chair. Alex Davis shared, “Bose and I were very clear on the idea that we did not want to make a chair in its physical form. We wanted to make something on the idea of the chair. Making it was a bit of a struggle, as we tried different mediums and finally created fibre balls to make Braille on canvas. It wasn’t easy to create something so minimalistic.”  Alex added, “The final word is – Please do not sit. But a chair is supposed to sit, please do not touch, but a hard bound chair is supposed to be touched. We believe that if absurdity co-exist in life, also adversity co-exist in life. This chair was made for the sixth sense.”


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