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FUMI: The Beautiful Grain

Jun 8, 2021

Gallery FUMI presents ‘The Beautiful Grain’, an exhibition exploring wood as a material through the work of eleven artists and designers, who continue to push the boundaries of beauty, technique, and craft objects. 

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Text by TLMagazine

Gallery FUMI presents ‘The Beautiful Grain’, an exhibition exploring wood as a material through the work of eleven artists and designers. Natural, strong, versatile, and aesthetic, wood can be crafted in a myriad of ways; moulded into form, carved, sawn, pressed, polished, and recycled. “Frank Lloyd Wright called it the most humanly intimate of all materials” says Sam Pratt, of FUMI. “We thought that was a value that has as much relevance now as throughout the history of design” adds his co-founder Valerio Capo. 

With works from Casey McCafferty, Lukas Wegwerth, Sam Orlando Miller, Francesco Perini, Maria Bruun and Anne Dorthe Vester, Max Lamb, Rowan Mersh, Glithero, Voukenas Petrides, Jie Wu, and Saelia Aparicio, the exhibition reveals the incredible range offered by a singular material. Each of the artists and designers exhibiting demonstrates a personal relationship rooted in craft practice, resulting in experimental and hand-formed objects. 

In works by Casey McCafferty and Max Lamb, wood is explored through the prism of sustainability. For McCafferty, ‘The Beautiful Grain’ presented an opportunity to explore waste materials from wood production, namely sawdust. From this, he mixed sawdust and polymer “to take the material full circle – back to something usable”. With the addition of clay dust, the project took on texture and pigmentation, bringing it to life. Lamb presents a continuation of  his exploration into the material GLULAM with a series of new chairs, each one unique in shape. Glulam is made by bonding layers of dimensional lumber, resulting in a resistant, light, flexible and sustainable material.

This material experimentation is extended in the respective works of Rowan Mersh and Jie Wu. While Mersh utilises cheap and readily available components to create intricate sculptural works. In this exhibition, he presents a mass of birch wood takeaway spoons, drink stirrers and toothpicks, arranged in an undulating, almost feather-like textured form. Similarly, Wu draws upon a combination of natural and manmade materials by embedding pieces of recycled antique Chinese rosewood into translucent resin of many colours, thereby elevating our perception of synthetic materials. 

The theme of reuse is continued in Saelia Aparicio’s work with plywood, developing a characterful tallboy based upon previous work, which she has called TALL GIRL. In the work of Voukenas Petrides (Andreas Voukenas and Steven Petrides), 40-year old olive trees, originally destined to become firewood, have been carefully transformed into a bench and coffee table, revealing the elaborate texture and grain hidden within. German designer Lukas Wegworth uses the irregular material of branches, splicing them together to create the bases of consoles and other works, emphasising their strong and organic shapes. Similarly, London-based Glithero (Tim Simpson and Sarah Van Gameren) present a conjoined pair of cupboards made in stained walnut and hand-dyed strips of gummed paper, and sit upon a cast-bronze bamboo frame. “The frame is an ad hoc structure of bamboo and string, that we fashioned as we went along,” says Simpson. “Bamboo is a grass, really, but in our collective consciousness, it comes under ‘woody things’. Its advantage is its speed of growth and lack of environmental baggage.”

In other works, particularly those of Sam Orlando Miller and Francesco Perini, various kinds of wood are combined alongside other materials. Miller, known for his unique way of creating three-dimensional works in mirror, presents a dining table with a chestnut top inlaid with chestnut whorls, and poplar dining chairs, also inlaid with chestnut. In contrast, Perini, who is descended from three generations of Tuscan carpenters, has created a one-off table in which he combines oak with black and gold marble. For him, this enhances the beauty of the wood’s natural rings, which define its age and development. 

This emphasis upon craft and materiality is furthered by the functional and hybrid works of Maria Bruun and Anne Dorthe Vester, who together combine wood with ceramic or metal to make sofas, tables and chairs that defy convention. For this exhibition, the Danish pair has made an all-oak version of an existing chair in ceramic and wood (Heavy Stack). “Wood is a great material. We have studied both Japanese assembly principles and classical furniture construction in order to work with it as best as we can,” they say. “Its sculptural qualities, its veins, its natural warmth are all important to us, and relevant to contemporary thinking.” 

‘The Beautiful Grain’ demonstrates the nature of wood as both an ancient and contemporary material that continues to challenge designers to push the boundaries of beauty, technique, and craft objects. 

The Beautiful Grain is on show at Gallery FUMI until June 30, 2021. 

All images by Thomas Joseph Wright, courtesy of Gallery FUMI.




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