Over the last few years I have been increasingly interested in the collecting cabinet as a type, both formally and socially.
It is a small but important point that I call them collecting cabinets (a verb – active, an ongoing process) as opposed to collector's cabinets, merely naming them after a type of person.
The cabinets are designed to be functional and useful but not prescriptive about what those uses might be. These decisions and actions are there to be made by the person or people using it over a period of time. The cabinet can become precise and specific through interaction. In this way I hope that each cabinet offers possibilities for the imagination. The way that the various parts of each cabinet are arranged is a strategy underpinning this ongoing process. The various drawers, fall-flaps, doors, and sliding tambours are not immediately apparent, this, coupled with a level of ambiguity over what might be the front of a piece invite exploration. Hopefully this takes a little time to do as someone discovers the various openings and ledges.
The overall visual and structural form of these cabinets is grounded in an interest in industrial and agricultural architecture and infrastructure. I am drawn to how functional expediency lends buildings like these certain sculptural qualities where mass is balanced and suspended in and amongst frames and supports.
As hinted at above I am interested in the future life of a piece of furniture and how furniture interacts between us, and the spaces we put furniture in. But more particular to the idea of the collecting cabinet is how furniture interacts with the objects that it houses and displays. A collecting cabinet becomes meaningful, realises its potential, once it is containing, displaying, and organising other objects. In this way a dialogue is established between things. In visual language this might be conceptualised as a figure/ground relationship, however, I prefer the linguistic model of text and context. Text and context can be thought of as mutually-shaping as well as emergent and processual with neither element residing at the fore.
The pieces shown here are:
Lodged 2017: A commission for a private client to house part of a growing collection of contemporary craft and anthropological art.
At Cliffe I and At Cliiffe II 2016. These pieces were made as an unmatched pair, able to sit together or apart. 115Cm and 117cm high. Both pieces are named specifically after an area of the Thames Estuary.
Perpetually Ajar, and From Greenwich to The Barrier. An unmatched pair of collecting cabinets. 115cm and 117cm high. 2015. Various combinations of drawers, tambours, shelved cupboards, and drop-flaps. Exhibited at Collect 2015 represented by Sarah Myerscough Gallery. There are two copies of From Greenwich to the Barrier both in private collections. Perpetually Ajar was awarded a Gold Award at the Cheongju Biennale in 2015 and is now in their collection.
Interlocutors: Cabinets for Small Curiosities. A set of three cabinets that can live together in various arrangements or alternatively stand as individual pieces. Individually the pieces are (L-R) Stevenson/Tempelhof, Bugsby's Reach, and Beech Mountain.
Goffman(1974). The notion of a display cabinet and its traces of making reduced to a minimum. Taking Erving Goffman's 'Frame Analysis' as a model to think about how the idea of furniture frames (and is framed by) space as we apprehend it, and how the furniture frames the objects they hold. Reducing the furniture-form to something minimal and emblematic to enable this point.
Silo, a collector’s cabinet for keeping and showing indeterminate ephemera. This cabinet has been acquired by the Nasjonalmuseet for Kunst, Arkitektur og Design, Oslo, Norway for the permanent collection.
Ad hoc 2015. This piece is rooted in set of photographs made at Dungeness; specifically drawing on a discarded Luton truck body.
Dressing Stand, 2010 a re-imagining of the dressing table – a place for jewellery, make-up, and accessories. This piece was awarded the Wesley Barrell Award for contemporary craft.
Volume/Composition, a cabinet for 500 CDs.
The impetus for the works on this page was twofold. On the one hand they began as a response to the normative conditions of studio furniture making. Those of, slow and careful making - planning, deciding, and executing; of obviating risk and a concern with precise joinery. I had often longed for the faster feedback loops of learning and reflection that I saw in makers' practices whose work was made relatively quickly - over hours and days rather than days and weeks. On the other hand, despite my interest in the form and structure of a piece of cabinet furniture I found many viewers were more interested in its utility function - a need to know exactly what it was for.
These works started jointly as an exercise in rapid low-risk making and an attempt to play with and subvert expectations of 'furniture'. By this I mean there is much that is 'furniture-ish' about them yet they do not fit to recognisable types or forms. They are furniture of furniture.
The project became an exercise in making an object inside one day, from offcuts and oddments, and that were deliberately ambiguous in their possible (lack of) function. Sketching out ideas with a limited range of tools and materials. Starting life as 'studio works' it became quickly apparent that they had more autonomy and presence than first imagined. Showing them in public spaces prompted broader and more diverse responses from people than furniture normally does. They prompted stories of things in sheds and inspired imagined uses, viewers told me about their granny's ironing board or a husband's old camera. They became access points. And they almost inevitably found some uses as people placed small objects on and around them - often moving those objects quickly and thinking about juxtapositions.
This led to them being used within various group and collaborative exhibitions with Intelligent Trouble and others. The initial ideas were extended to exploratory projects such as 100 Legs & Liquorice Straps, and addressing functional expediencies as my contribution to the touring show 'Beauty is the First Test'. By some measure the project reached some sort of critical juncture with the work I made for The Tool at Hand where I used one custom-adapted saw and a single piece of wood.
The project formed the groundwork for my chapter in 'Craftwork as Problem Solving' (2016) an anthology edited by Professor Trevor Marchand.
The groups shown here are:
In Our Houses 2008.
Anon.(pts1-6). Commissioned for Taking Time: Craft and the Slow Revolution. 2009.
Host, and Loop 2011.
Domestic Bliss 2012.
Exhibition furniture commissioned for Beauty is the First Test 2013.
100 Legs & Liquorice Straps 2010.
The Tool at Hand 2012.
Work with Helen Carnac
These images are of very recent work I have made with Helen Carnac. Helen and I share our studio and have made work together at various times over the last twenty years. During 2017 we have brought a greater focus to integrating our materials and processes. This has seen a shift between how Helen's material (industrial process enamel on steel) and my main material (wood) interact and combine in our jointly-made work. We have tried to shift the tendency for enamel to be a decorative element to being a necessary structural part of a furniture form.
By making the enamel elements key to how a piece is constructed particular aspects of how studio furniture is normally made become redundant. Where there might have been a corner formed by a row of neat dovetails there is now a piece of folded steel. The wood surfaces thus become the decorative element.
This project is evolving continuously and in the pieces shown here show various iterations and complexities of the relationship outlined above.
The pieces shown here are:
In a Landscape I
In a Landscape II
The first three pieces were first shown at Collect '17 as a gallery spotlight with Sarah Myerscough Gallery. In a Landscape II will be shown with the British Council at the Cheongju Biennale 2017. Helen and I are currently working on new work to be launched with Sarah Myerscough in October 2017.
The project has made apparent our shared but different uses of source materials. Both of us photograph the industrial and agricultural landscape, its buildings and infrastructure. For Helen this means recording at an almost forensic level relatively micro abstractions of marks, tones, and texture. While I draw on the wider view of structure and form.
Working with others
I will shortly add images and write about working with others. This will include 'collaborative' ventures such as Intelligent Trouble and Pairings as well as working with Richard Slee to build structures to display his work and being part of a team that saw St. Mungo's hostel residents exhibiting at the V&A.
I will shortly write about and post images of engaging projects; invitations to make work related to what I do but offering enough space to generate something new and aside from the everyday.
My focus over the last few years (alongside my PhD research) has been quite firmly on the collecting cabinet. On this page I will post images of significant furniture and public art projects from recent years forming some sort of disorderly archive.