After making waves representing South Africa at last September’s London Design Biennale, Porky Hefer takes stage at New York’s R & Company gallery this month. Mounted with Cape Town design authority Southern Guild, the Heart of Lightness solo show reveals a group of never-seen-before works. Challenging heady conceptions of high art and design, the new series of hanging sofas, nests or cocoons reignites our primal sense of intuition and play.
Though highly influenced by the bombastic, iconographically-remixed approach of radicals working in the late 1960s, Hefer makes a strong claim for the value of the handmade, sensual and visceral. Much like his predecessors Joe Colombo and Wendell Castle, the South African designer explores how one can find temporal isolation and comfort in the uncertainty of re-defined, multifunctional space. One can only think of the cabriolet bed in Colombo’s RotoLiving interior.
Much of Hefer’s latest work achieves the same. Playing with the notions of concealment and camouflage, works like BWA Leaf Mask or Wasp Nest emulate ideas of disguise and shelter respectively. Inside Caterpiller, one is intoxicated with odours of hide and sheepskin – natural materials indicative of the designer’s homeland. Hefer reveals an Africa enthralled in the promotion of bespoke crafts and a closer connection to nature rather than the homogeny of mass production. These works, what Radical Italian forefather Andrea Branzi might deem the fruition of his Animali Domestici doctrine, provide experiences that re-engage our basic instincts.
Heart of Lightness by Porky Hefer: till 23 February
R & Company: 82 Frankin St. New York
Bwa Leaf Mask (Steel, Kooboo cane, felt and leather): "I’m fascinated by the ceremonial masks of West Africa. Their sheer imagination and creativity astound me and their effect of suspending you in another world is spellbinding. The Bwa people from Burkina Faso have a wonderful ceremony where they celebrate the new harvest. The masks are covered in fresh leaves from the first crops. These are burned every night and new ones are made in the morning. They are mesmerising."
Bwa Leaf Mask (Steel, Kooboo cane, felt and leather)
Caterpillar (Steel, Kooboo cane, raffia and leather): This is designed along the lines of my puffer fish, Joyce, from my first solo show, Monstera Deliciosa, Volume I. By adding just one more detail to a simple nest changes everything. Legs are done by my Zimbabwean friend Chamu, who makes raffia animals.
Caterpillar (Steel, Kooboo cane, raffia and leather)
Mask 1 (Steel, Kooboo cane and leather): “One day a friend and I were in a nest in the Southern Guild Gallery, doing some
final touches. Two people walked into the gallery. They couldn’t see us in the nest. They walked up to the nest and started discussing it. My name then came up and they started talking about me. They turned and walked off to go meet gallery co-founder Trevyn McGowan. We were not even a metre away. Thankfully they were complimentary.
I realised the viewer interacts with the form it is confronted by and not with what’s inside. This is the beginning of an exploration of masks that conceal you. You can choose what you reveal or how you reveal yourself.The form is inspired by a pile of different baskets on top of one another. It uses many different styles of weaving and different techniques. Most times, we limit the number of styles on one piece, but I wanted to celebrate them. I studied the finer details and finishes that the weavers could do on the furniture they do on a daily basis and made a feature out of these.”
Mask 1 (Steel, Kooboo cane and leather)
Wasp Nest (Steel, leather and sheepskin): "I have done quite a few birds’ nests in organic materials. The material is fitting for the subject matter. I wanted to mimic another kind of nest, made from another material. During my time in Namibia, I fell in love with wasps. Their basic design is too sci-fi to comprehend. To me they are futuristic helicopters. Their building skills are also incredible. The inclusion of the branch and a context is based on the crops used in early botanical illustrations – the way they cut the branch and bits of foliage to give the subject some context."
Wasp Nest (Steel, leather and sheepskin)
James Brown (Steel, leather and sheepskin): "First abstract ‘nest’. Two spheres joined by a tunnel. Designed to be explored inside and outside. Something to ride or somewhere to be ridden."
James Brown (Steel, leather and sheepskin)
James Brown (Steel, leather and sheepskin)