Pub­lic works

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Visual Arts - Bron­wyn Wat­son Deep

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

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