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Friday, 3 July 2009

Even more exciting news from Aesthetica finalists

I’m so pleased to say that Paul Harris, yet another of our Aesthetica finalists, is opening his first solo exhibition at Barista’s Café, Sandyford, Ireland on 22 July. The exhibition, CubaOne photographs, is the culmination of Paul’s visit to Cuba during the last weeks of Castro’s presidency. The images are evocative of Cuba’s past as a great revolutionary nation, and stunningly capture the laid back nature of Cuba’s run-down streets, alongside epic countryside and intimate glimpses into the work and play of its inhabitants.

Paul’s photography is striking in its ability to entice the viewer without giving away too much, retaining a mysterious relevance to the viewer while remaining inherently place specific. In this manner the works fit into National Geographic’s tradition so it comes as no surprise to learn that Paul was shortlisted for the top 30 audience award in the prestigious National Geographic International Photographic Competition.

We’re so excited to have discovered Paul’s fantastic work, and wish him the best of success for the exhibition. CubaOne Photographs will run from 22 July, full details can be found on Paul’s website at www.paulharris.ie

Have a great weekend!


Thursday, 2 July 2009

Wimbledon fatigue? Take in a show…

Do you wish Andy Murray all the best, but find the ‘Murray Mound’ hysteria all a bit much? Maybe you should check out some other sickeningly young and talented rising stars.

The season for Wimbledon and Pimms, now is also the time of year graduate degree shows are endemic. Across the country, arts graduates from photography to fashion are now exhibiting their work to the public. For students, the graduate degree shows are the years’ highlight, a chance to display the culmination of 3 or 4 years hard work and commitment. For the exhibition attendee, the shows present an exciting opportunity to sneak-preview the future of British design.

Last week I was inspired at the opening night of the Leeds College of Art and Design; personal favourites were the graphic design projects. The innovative use of different materials used by the designers to engage with philosophies and convey visual solutions was stunning. Font and type-face have never been so stirring! As Peter Saville highlights: “The actual visual material, which was a big step for people, would not have been so openly received had it not been n the context of pop affiliation,” it’s bringing the specifics of design to all.

I’m hoping to make it to Nottingham for another show later this month. Fine and decorative arts, fashion design, knitwear and textiles, fashion marketing and communication, photography, graphics, multimedia and product design are just some of the disciplines you can take in at Work the Way the World Works, brought from the graduates of Nottingham Trent’s school of Art and Design. More than 100 students from 15 countries are exhibiting, in a show which truly reflects culture, creativity and diversity from across the globe.

Carol Jones, Academic Team Leader for Masters Programmes, explains the thinking behind the theme,”Work the Way the World Works, reminds us to keep our focus on a world which, whilst experiencing a global economic downturn, is also rich in multi-level opportunities in many different contexts.” Graduate projects include an investigation into the buying behaviour of design-conscious Chinese males, strategies for the improvement of fashion e-retail websites in Taiwan and research into the relationship between the Bombay film industry and the Indian fashion market.

I’m particularly intrigued to see one student’s product design project, where intricate symbols and meanings from traditional Chinese furniture design are incorporated into a table created using Western design practices.
This East-meets-West merging of ideology and design is a hot topic in the Aesthetica office at the moment. China’s current economic boom has translated into an extremely powerful contemporary art market. Within the space of a generation, the changes in this country’s culture have been immense to say the least. The seemingly ever-rising popularity and importance of Chinese art is discussed with artist Chen Ke in our current issue.
Work the Way the World Works is open from July 11-18. If you fancy a break from all the tennis coverage, or – more likely – the last British hope is knocked out, a visit to a graduate show comes highly recommended!

[Image credit. 1. Ken Wong, Interim. 2. Valeria Artistidou, Motion Graphic Design]

Monday, 29 June 2009

Is anyone else really into chairs?

I’m pleased to say that at the grand old age of 24, I visited Brighton for the first time this weekend – I felt like I’d found my spiritual home, all sunny café terraces, vibrant market stalls, a fabulous clean (by British standards) beach, and those mesmerising north and south lanes with their clusters of dream shops.

After sunning it up for a while on the beach, I took myself to the Pavilion and the Brighton Museum where I discovered the city’s small but exceptional collection on 20th century art and design. I remember once reading (I’m a little foggy as to where) that the one object which every designer hopes to make his own is a chair. The distinction between one chair and another is sometimes negligible, mundane even, but living as I do with a real chair enthusiast (furnishing 1 small living room = 8 random mismatched chairs, and counting) I’m starting to understand the nature of this fascination, helped along by Brighton’s collections.

The amazing thing was to see the influences of each time and each movement discussed manifested into the chairs. The arts and crafts movement’s deliberating craftsmanship in sweeping organic curves, the roaring twenties’ glistening decadence in art deco’s tasteful classicism, and the incorporation of industrialism in modernism’s clean bent wood and metal. Maybe the chair is the best representation of civilisation, of a society’s values, preoccupations and aims, but these elements can be seen in the objects all around us, our teapots and our lemon squeezers, our cabinets and our lamps, as well as our paintings and our sculptures.

Various fluctuations between form and function serve to distinguish the pragmatism of modernism, from the flights of fancy represented in the surrealist collections. The distinction between art and design and its increasingly confused boundaries is something that we recently discussed in depth with Peter Saville and the visit to Brighton’s museum, showcasing art along the 20th century’s trailblazers of design, emphasised the intertwining between the two. It reminds me of the juxtapositions in women’s fashions, and the medium’s own encroachment into areas reserved for the visual arts through creative visionaries at the helm of the world’s top labels.

My ideal chair? I love the stark metal mesh of Eames’s DKR-2, an existing element of my flat’s collection, but I’d like to combine it with the frivolity of a rocking chair, still on bent metal, but with the bikini cushioning, or maybe something a bit more sixties in fibreglass… I can see how this fascination can grow…

It’s a joy to notice the intricacies and the details of the things around us, the tiny little minutiae which makes something a pleasure or a pain to use. Collections like Brighton’s allow us to stop and take note of the everyday beauty around us, the pieces which have experienced hours at the hands of exacting designers, and if you find yourself with time to spare, I’d recommend a visit.

[Image credits: courtesy of Brighton Museum at http://www.virtualmuseum.info/]

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