Preview: Thursday 11 October 2007, 5-7pm
Mathias Bengtsson has come to prominence in recent years with his highly sculptural forms and technologically ground-breaking seating design. Blurring the distinction between functionless and functional, his biomorphic forms can be understood as art objects that one can sit on and extraordinary contemporary seating one might prefer to look at.
Bengtsson uses a combination of traditional and innovative methods to create his works. Initially making drawings and models, he digitally alters the forms before interpreting them into modern materials which are manipulated using state-of-the-art technology or processes. This keen interest and exploration of contemporary or industrial materials and technology has enabled him to create new and original forms.
Bengtsson studied Furniture Design at the Danish Design School in Copenhagen and then at the Royal College of Art, in London, graduating in 1999. He has since made the capital his home and his work has featured in exhibitions of contemporary sculpture and design all over the world. Most notable are several exhibitions at the Design Museum in London (such as, ‘Design Now’ in 2001 and ‘Design by Aluminium’ in 2002), the British Council’s Great Brits touring exhibition (Milan, Tokyo and Sao Paulo) in 2003/04 and a solo exhibition at the Rohsska Museum, Sweden in 2005.
One-Off Factory at National Glass Centre has been co-organised with Northern Gallery of Contemporary Art in Sunderland to present an exhibition of new and existing work by Bengtsson. It is one of several design exhibitions taking place in Sunderland and Tyne and Wear as part of Design Event 07 that focuses on prototypes, innovation and experimentation in design.
Spun bench, 2007
National Glass Centre has commissioned Bengtsson to create a new work that extends the experimentation with materials and technology that he uses. The commission also works as an opportunity to test the boundaries of his designs further.
Bengtsson has produced his largest work to date; a monumental sculptural form based on his current Spun chair. The giant seating system dominates the Contemporary Gallery but at less than 100kg, it is incredibly lightweight. The construction snakes and curves around, over and under itself in the shape of a figure eight, creating an imposing structure that although rigid and immobile appears to flow around the space. The fibres wrap around a void of empty space as if they are covering an invisible mould.
It is constructed from carbon fibre, spun and woven from a single, unbroken fibre that by its design forms both the framework and fabric of the object. This carbon fibre technology was first used by NASA and Boeing to manufacture objects quickly and economically.
Bengtsson’s earlier Slice chairs and chaise longues seem fluid and malleable; the end result of reduction or erosion rather than construction. They recall land formation contours; the smooth weathered surfaces of rocks carved into grooves and bulges by the sand and sea, or the curves and contours of the human body. Of Bengtsson’s solo exhibition at the Röhsska Museum in Gothenburg, the curator, Anders Hammarstrand, described that what had first attracted him to Bengtsson’s work were these complex, abstract but also poetic objects that made a transformation from soft, organic forms modelled in clay into harder, more synthesized structures through the design process.
The forms are constructed using thin layers cut from a sheet of material: aluminium, plywood, cardboard or foam, by a computer-controlled laser cutting technique derived from ‘rapid prototyping’. Each slice forms a cross-section that is then assembled by hand.
The accumulation of layers forms shapes and contours that indicate plausible arm and backrests, legs and frame of a chair. The question it provokes, though, is can you or should you use it to sit on? Hammarstrand concluded, “I think so, but we must of course leave behind the old dogmatic functionalistic approach to furniture and accept that these chairs may have their special demands on the user as well as on the working environments one chooses for them.”
Design Event 07
‘One-Off Factory’ is part of this year’s Design Event, the North East’s annual design festival taking place from 11-28 October 2007. Now in its third year, Design Event 07 includes exhibitions covering graphics, fashion, furniture, film and product design at a host of venues across the region. Design Event 07 is part of the Dott 07 (Designs of the time 2007) year-long programme of community projects, events and exhibitions.
Jewellery designed by Mathias Bengtsson is on display and for sale at the National Glass Centre shop.
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