Judging by the queues at the Saatchi Gallery, and the liberal sprinkling of orange dots already placed on exhibits, crafty customers were out in force on the first day of the Collect craft fair (which runs until Monday).
Billed as the ‘international art fair for contemporary objects’, the applied art on offer generally encompasses tableware, metalwork, furniture, jewellery, textiles and ceramic sculpture. In keeping with the modern design ethic, the meticulously handcrafted works in this show include trayfuls of unwearable necklaces, deconstructed clothing, useless utensils and chairs you can’t even sit on.
With prices starting at a couple of hundred pounds for items such Katie Bunnell’s computer numerically controlled laser-cut silicon moulded porcelain beakers, the show does offer affordability. But there are also items, probably the more collectable ones – like Michael Eden’s computer generated urns, or Kate Molone’s exotic vegetable inspired pots, where in some cases you won’t get much change from £30,000.
Arty eye candy abounds, with ephemeral glass sculptures and curiosity collections from the likes of Steffen Dam and Geoffrey Mann, exquisite Far Eastern designed enamel and lacquerware from Takuo Nakamura, Tang Mingxiu, Koji Hatakeyama and others – and molten sculptures from Norway like Irene Nordli’s Rosa Venus and Christina Schou Christensen’s Drip. There are some beautifully hand painted, and fairly reasonably priced, Central American inspired pots by a collective of Nicaraguan artists. And a few bizarre mixed media creations, where it looks as though Professor Branestawm got carried away with a Meccano set.
One room in the gallery is dedicated to ‘raw craft’, including Peter Marigold’s roughly constructed Log Chess Set. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a contemporary exhibition without a space for experimental installations. Louise Gardiner’s intricately appliquéd and embroidered canvases deserve a mention here, combining, as they do, detailed workmanship with colour-coordinated saleability (Belgravia-based concept stores take note).
Most extraordinary of all – and great fun too – is Geoff Crook and Peter Jones’ latest collaboration. Following on from their previous showing of ‘useless stuff’, Crook and Jones have created The Rhizome Chair. Its organic form “began as an experiment in translating theory into practice, but has evolved into an ecosystem of ideas and possibilities that redefine form and function.” Based on Delueze and Guattari’s rhizome theory, the chair is made up of ‘pods’ (or rhizomes), each of which houses a scientific experiment. These range from the production and application of an electric current from fruit and vegetables to the interpretations and response to the unseen world revealed by the scanning electron microscope (SEM). “From its playful use of hyper-real colour to a fresh herb bed, the Rhizome chair is effectively a living form that has the potential to keep evolving. While it reflects some of the proportions and conventions that are normalized within the genre of ‘chairs’, the Rhizome is ultimately the product of a strategy of subversion and extension that encourages us to think before we SIT.” Like much modern design art, it may not feel very comfortable…but should, at least, stimulate the imagination?