Latest works by top object designers star in Sitting and Looking at Somerset House

By Rhiannon Starr | 04 July 2011
A photo of a figure shrouded in darkness sitting on a seat looking at objects in a gallery
© Stewart Rutter
Exhibition: Sitting and Looking, Somerset House, London, until September 4 2011

You can linger in the presence of bespoke design objects at Somerset House’s new exhibition, sublimely curated by acclaimed furniture designers Jim Partridge and Liz Walmsley.

Finely honed pieces of contemporary furniture, fine art, photography, ceramics, jewellery, painting and textiles by ten renowned artists mingle to induce an immersive and sensuous experience.

The walls boast the visceral, “camera-less” photography of Garry Fabian Miller, an artist who has been exploring the possibilities of creating images with light since 1985.

Passing light through objects such as coloured glass and filters of oil or coloured water onto photo-sensitive paper, his techniques echo the early pioneers of photography yet remain startlingly progressive.

Pieces such as Exposure VIII, Exposure (1 1/2 Hours of Light) and the triptych Burning (with Gwen) glow with an intense luminosity reminiscent of a Rothko, yet arguably incite further intrigue due to the mysterious methods employed.

These are complemented by the ceramics of Gordon Baldwin, who describes his abstract work as “an intuitive process carried on without analytical thought”, and Rupert Spira, whose refined pieces feature poetry in the form of embossed letters or scratched into the glaze in the sgraffito style.

Artist David Poston’s predilection for jewellery stems from the visual synergy and relationship between the object and its wearer, which holds a potential for intimacy and significance hard to imagine in any other art form.

This manifests itself in sculptural pieces wrought with tension: bold in their forms, delicate in their architecture. Welded stainless steel wire gilded with infinitesimal red glass beads winds hypnotically into a bracelet, whilst other pieces feature panels of tapestry or are forged from titanium.

English designer and artist Thomas Heatherwick – famous for his innovative use of engineering and materials – is also featured in Spun, a completely rotationally symmetrical chair.

When positioned upright, the piece more closely resembles a vessel, but once tipped off balance it provides a playful seat from which the user can rock from side to side or even spin around in a complete circle.

The title piece, from witty design duo El Ultimo Grito, Italian designer and architect Vico Magistretti and the curators themselves, anchors the exhibition.

An interspersion of furniture, it encourages visitors to occupy seats carved from blocks of solid green oak – scorched and polished to a lustrous black finish – or sink into a luxuriant sofa in order to savour the viewing process.

This unusual yet delightful premise, particularly as set in the domestically-scaled Terrace Rooms, lends an intimately mellow quality to the spaces, enhancing the feeling of interaction and contemplation.

  • Open 10am-6pm. Admission free.
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