Tracey Deep, She chair 2016 designed, 2017 manufactured. Collection National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Forthcoming acquisition to be purchased with funds donated by Gordon Moffatt AM, 2017. On display in exhibition Creating The Contemporary Chair: The Gordon Moffatt Gift, NGV International, Melbourne, until October 15. In 1963, in a first-floor studio in London’s Soho, photographer Lewis Morley took one of his most famous photographs of a nude woman straddling a plywood chair. The woman was Christine Keeler of the Profumo affair scandal that ultimately brought down the British government. And the chair? It was a copy of the model 3107, better known as the Series 7, by Danish designer Arne Jacobsen.
Morley’s photograph made Keeler famous but it also made the Series 7 one of the most popular chairs in the world and collected by museums such as New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The chair’s cult status also was aided by it being stackable, light and compact, with a curvaceous design of a round backrest, thin “waist” and round seat.
Last year Australian artist Tracey Deep was so inspired by the Series 7 that she decided to reinterpret it. She took the chair and, using cotton rope, she tied it up. She called her chair the She chair, and it is on display at Melbourne’s NGV International in the exhibition Creating The Contemporary Chair: The Gordon Moffatt Gift, featuring some of the 20th century’s most iconic chairs.
Deep says the She chair was a “joy to create”. “I just wanted to keep her light and playful and I wanted to honour the shape of the chair, which is why I kept those beautiful definite curves and accentuated the feminine side of the chair,” she says from her studio in Syd- ney’s Redfern. “I played with different materials, and I found the raw cotton rope was malleable and really worked well with creating the patterns and the shapes that I was trying to create by accentuating the curves of the chair. “I just thought it was a replica of a beautiful female form and that is how I interpreted the whole thing. Every bit of rope that I lassoed around the chair, I was making patterns and knots. Then I started wrapping her legs in the rope, and I felt she needed some of those cascading playful loops that accentuated her voluptuous curves. I did want to create a statement with the chair but I didn’t realise until I totally had finished the chair that it was looking more female, and I thought, ‘ Oh my god, it’s a she chair.’ ” Simone LeAmon, the NGV’s curator of contemporary design and architecture, says Deep is interesting because she isn’t a furniture designer; she trained as a florist in Sydney and now runs a successful floristry studio. In recent years Deep also has been making largescale installations and sculptural works using Australian flora, recycled materials and her signature rope-binding technique. As LeAmon and I stand before the She chair, she says she finds it appealing because it is “literally embellishing and dressing up the Series 7 chair”. “I love that Tracey takes this famous chair, an archetype, designed by a very acclaimed modernist designer from the 20th century and ties it up. It’s done in a way that she also dresses it, so it is almost like a garment or like a dress. And the thing about mid-20th century design is that it is very male-dominated and so this particular chair has something additional to offer. It is a very smart concept. And I guess it appealed to the provocateur in me where I really think successful contemporary design can also be about being disruptive and provocative.”
is also showing work as a finalist in the Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize, at Woollahra Council, Double Bay, NSW, from October 14 to November 5.
Timber, steel, cotton rope 79cm x 52cm x 51cm