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Where Bodily Functions Influence Form

The new series Furniture 11 by Atelier Van Lieshout (AVL) exhibited at London’s Carpenters Workshop Gallery takes everyday human functions as its starting point.

By Katie Dominy / 14-10-2009

The Carpenters Workshop Gallery notes that its artistic direction sees form prevailing over function, exhibiting design pieces with strong sculptural elements – and in the case of Furniture 11, we can see how Joep Van Lieshout, the founder of AVL, chose the human figure sculpture as the basis of the designs; with only a few tweaks necessary to turn them into functional pieces.

The Body Sofa is a good example. AVL says the process dictated the outcome of the furniture and here we see fibreglass black bodies sprawling over each other to create a sculpture that functions as a sofa – with the addition of cream fur hide and bolster cushions.  The matching Body Table, also in black and fibreglass, sees a distorted figure holding up a circular table top, while Woman is a white female form, crab-like on all fours, with flattened stomach presented as a table.

In the Fertility Lamp and the Pappa Mamma Lamp, AVL explore the concept of conception, in both humorous and unsettling fashion. The Pappa Mamma Lamp uses male and female organs to create a balancing act of composition, while Fertility Lamp is more light-hearted in each approach, with references to tribal fertility gods. Tree Table Lap in bronze is more sinister; from a distance trailing fronds hang down from the lamp stem, but on closer inspection the fronds morph into lynched figures.

In contrast to the sculptural figurative forms of the Body series, AVL has created the Fossil series, where actual impressions of the human figure have the appearance of primitive early fossils. The gallery showcased the Fossil Chair, in fibreglass with foam coating; a strange teal blue colour with natural-toned sheepskin cover. AVL tell us that the fossil series are ‘reminiscent or recall a primitive shape, half natural, half manmade. They have an outline that vaguely looks like a remnant of a human shape or a body. Like a fossil, these nomadic pieces reveal the identity of the prehistoric host but also resemble and may be seen as rocks or volcanic stone.

Joep Van Lieshout explains that although his pieces sometimes appear dark, he is interested in celebrating life –out of its ordinariness comes wonder. “I make sculptures and paintings about daily life. I don’t like borders – or morality’, Joep notes. Finally, Van Lieshout wants his furniture to be enjoyed ‘inspiring visitors to nestle and offer an interesting place to gather, read, have a picnic and dream away with the movement of the clouds or the sounds of the city.’

AVL has an established relationship with the Carpenters Workshop Gallery and several of its new pieces were shown at the gallery’s stand at the recent design/art fair Pavilion of Art & Design London. At the fair, AVL’s Pappa Mamma Lamp was shortlisted for the Moët Hennessy-Pavilion of Art & Design London prize 2009.

Furniture 11 by Atelier Van Lieshout, Carpenters Workshop Gallery, 3 Albemarle Street, London W1S 4 HE

October 9 – November 14 2009

Body Sofa
Fossil Chair
Fertility Lamp

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