(What Happens When) Artists Design Furniture
Catharine Rossi

Visual Objects for the Home is GOODD’s biggest undertaking so far. Although the Glasgow-based design studio has commissioned products before, this is the first time they have curated an entire collection. This level of ambition has been matched only by their openness: Brian Proudfoot and Thomas Russell set the artists and designers no brief, just the invitation to respond how they wished to the collection’s title. The result is a collection of ten objects that appeal not just to the visual, but to every one of our senses.

Despite their differences, the objects have much in common. This is due less to the shared Scottish connection of the objects’ authors than the fact that the majority of them are artists. This in itself is not a new phenomenon. From Donald Judd’s minimalist timber furnishings to Damien Hirst’s multi-coloured dot tables there have been any number of artists who have engaged in designing functional objects, and the rationale and results of their explorations have been just as varied. To see it anew in this collection is telling though: it speaks on the one hand of the strength of Glasgow’s art scene, where most of the contributors are based, and on the other of the increasingly blurred nature of the creative disciplines today, in which even the very idea of disciplinarity is itself up for debate.

You can tell though that most of those involved have art rather than design backgrounds: like a Richard Wentworth sculpture, Toby Paterson’s Kit Table and Uncontrollable Urge’s Vita side table are preoccupied more with the ad hoc and questions of materiality, while Nicolas Party’s Elephants toy box continues the Swiss artist’s interest in play and pattern in his installation-based work. That is not to say that these concerns are not found in design too; by the 1950s the American designers Charles and Ray Eames had already recognised the symbiosis between the decorative and the functional, a compatibility also recognised in Briggs & Cole’s patterned Komon Light and Joanne Tatham & Tom O’Sullivan’s playful The indirect exchange of uncertain value (2013).

At the same time Ettore Sottsass was beginning to introduce an anthropological, ritualistic element into his designs, something that Dean Brown has similarly explored in his domestic Shrines. The Italian architect was also regarded for his embrace of craft materials and traditions, resonating with a contemporary interest that James Rigler’s ceramic piece Gauntlet most explicitly exemplifies. Lastly, with notions of Hans Coray’s 1930s Landi chair and the outdoor chairs found in the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris, Martin Boyce, David Mackenzie and Raymond MacDonald’s Chair for the roof of the Palmyra Hotel contains the most direct reference to design history, injected here with the interest in the haphazard and the hand-made that cuts across the collection.

To identify these references to art and design in these objects is not to claim them as one or the other – this status does not matter. What does matter is finding space in our homes for objects that are visually arresting, tactilely engaging, functional and thought provoking, just like those that make up Visual Objects for the Home.