Faye Toogood: Assemblage 5
Celebrated designer Faye Toogood debuts her Moon-, Earth- and Water-inspired Assemblage 5 collection at New York’s Friedman Benda gallery; her first solo show in the United States.
British design maverick Faye Toogood has forayed into everything from magazine art direction to craft-based furniture and bespoke fashion. It’s no wonder that her latest Assemblage 5 series borrows from such a wide set of sensibilities. Mounted at New York’s Friedman Benda gallery till 15 April, the rich collection of chairs, tables, benches, shelves and tapestries makes up the designer’s first solo show in the United States. Visitors are treated to a sensorial scenography that accentuates the colours, materials, textures and forms that are key to this collection and indicative of the designer’s iconic style. However, Assemblage 5 presents new complexities; a matrix of personal and external references. Toogood spoke to TLmag about the new collection and her ongoing practice.
TLmag: Your work pushes artisanal production and various materials to new heights. How do the different Assemblage series inform each other? Is there a clear lineage?
Faye Toogood: The Assemblage series are part of a continuously evolving project, with foundations in the exploration of certain geometric forms and material experimentation; what one can use to produce furniture and objects. In this sense, there is a natural link between the different series. Each collection takes on new influences and inspirations. While signature or familiar shapes may return in later series, they are adapted to different contexts, take on new materiality and establish fresh relationships with other pieces in their given series.
TLmag: The Assemblage 5 series is defined as pantheistic and animistic; emulating the natural elements of the moon, earth and water with silver nitrate bronze, cob composite, lithium-barium and crystal respectively. How does the use of these materials express or extend your conceptual framework?
F.T.: The use of materials in Assemblage 5 expresses and extends my core concept in that it made for a challenging process. My aim was to render nature’s purest and most elemental forms: earth, water and the moon into something tangible; something to sit on, use and bring inside.
TLmag: In what way does this series reevaluate archetypical forms and the conventions of use?
F.T.: I’m interested in taking naturally occurring forms and translating them into different versions to stimulate new ways of seeing. In this latest collection, the Chalice stools are good examples of this approach. The name and form of a drinking vessel are literally upended to facilitate a different use. The Solitaire set and the wearable tapestries extend the series beyond of the normal constraints of furniture. These are objects that you can play with and that can clothe you. Assemblage 5 remains a reminder that furniture is created for people to utilise and to work at, not to be observed from afar as aggressive or cold objects.
TLmag: When in this series does the use of your recognised geometric vocabulary come into play? How does it help translate your message and correspond to the application of furniture?
F.T.: The Roly Poly shape – conceived when I was pregnant with my daughter – a recurrent silhouette – reappears again in Assemblage 5. The Pew chairs transmute the chunky form of the Roly Poly with a rounder solidity. Elsewhere, I attempt to rephrase this geometry and play it into new forms, or even take it away. For instance, the architectonic polyhedrons in the original Elements table were transformed into negative-shape voids; almost as if they were to interlock. (This iterative design is intended to express the relationship between females and males.)
TLmag: Much of your work responds to space. In your mind, how does this series interact with the environment at Friedman Benda gallery and perhaps also the context of New York?
F.T.: Marc Benda was incredibly gracious in giving me free reign on this collection. He not only provided physical space at the gallery but vast creative space to explore. The key element from this would be the vastness in which to work in; that to an extent is reflected in New York City. It pushed me out of my comfort zone, on a greater scale than ever before, whilst also bringing a series of pieces – deeply grounded in nature – to the centre of the metropolis.
TLmag: This exhibition is your first gallery showcase in the United States. What were your expectations?
F.T.: It’s a very exciting time. We’ve worked closely with a range of people in the US and produced interiors for American clients; as well as clothing for independent US retailers. We also exhibited at Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2016. Yet, to have the space and opportunity to show our latest Assemblage series in New York has been a real honour. It’s thrilling to reveal it to the US and to the American design industry on its home turf.
Assemblage 5 by Faye Toogood: till 15 April
Friedman Benda Gallery: 515 W 26th St.