It is hard to know where to place Blunk as a craftsman. Though he has achieved his primary success as a woodworker, he has also created an extensive body of work in clay, carved stone and cast bronze and has even made jewelry and weavings. Furthermore, he tends to blur the categories of furniture and non-functional sculpture as if they weren’t there. For Blunk, the issue of art status does not come up; he works without a conception of such a fixed category. His attitude towards such issues is reminiscent of the Japanese indifference towards distinction between art and craft. words by Glenn Adamson
Blunk might start the day making a wood sculpture with a chainsaw, but “he appreciated that it was a really aggressive tool and hard on the body, so he would only work with it for 20 minutes at a time, take a break and either stretch or work on a painting or on a ceramic series or make a piece of jewellery, then go back to the chainsaw. In one day he might work across three or four different mediums.” Because of this approach, there’s a clear through line in his artwork, a sense of continuous motif and theme regardless of the technique or material. From AD article By Kathryn Romeyn
Les Lalanne After the space-age monochrome modernism of the 1960s, the 1970s ushered in a renewed interest in nature and the organic — exemplified by the works of François-Xavier (1927-2008) and Claude Lalanne (1924-2019). Claude, who passed away in 2019 at the age of 93, was especially revered for her electroplated furniture and jewellery. ‘ was a bastion against poor taste and pretentiousness,’ commented Mitterand. ‘Wielding spirit and wit, she disdained mediocrity and dismissed... fleeting artistic trends. Her life’s philosophy lay in the fruit of a good day’s work.’
When he first moved to Paris François-Xavier got a job as a guard at the Louvre, where he spent hours studying the collection of Egyptian artefacts. From baboons and cats, to rhinoceroses and hippopotami, the influence of this time is evident throughout his sculptural work. From Christie's
Alexander Noll Noll used wood as his only media and mean of expression, using it for his elementary power and discovering all its virtues, charms, beauties and reactions, through his sculpted works and experimentations. He used to say: “I don’t kill the wood, I obey it”. Following the nature and nuances of the exotic or rustic wood, each of his works was directly inspired by nature, authentic and unique. He treated wood with passion and respect and refused to “inflict the eternal wound of iron”: his pieces of furniture were made without any hinge or nail and convey an impression of primitive force and timeless beauty.
Excerpt From Sotheby's
There is a permeating influence for me, from these makers worlds, if you’re feeling down and as though the world is going mad and everything feels stacked up against you, as I’m sure we all feel from time to time, and you happen to see an image of their work or stumble across an article, every time, they inspire and uplift. The shapes, materials and the effort behind the pieces and thought and inspiration, it all shines through and in this light, your own meagre sketches, ideas and intuitions about the world don’t seem so unreasonable, compared to the ingenious and extravagant pieces already out there.
Having a curiosity about the nature of reality, existence and how we have come to know, what we know, the thinking and methods we use to find out, like philosophy, maths and physics and our own intuitions and observations. Not that I understand anything about these subjects or profess to be any kind of expert. More just having an awareness of the approach and processes involved and being inspired by reading about these discoveries and trying to express them, in some way, through the design.
When I started in furniture, including restoration and antiques, I was interested in the pure lines of Hepplewhite and Emile Jacques Ruhlmann and the elegant proportions of classical form. Contemporary design in the early 90’s was generally quite bad, as far as woodwork was concerned in my opinion, and has not stood the test of time.
Luckily for me, in those early days, I pulled Charles Eames out of a hat, as the teacher handed it around with the names of Macintosh, Mies Van der Rohe, Chippendale, etc on scraps of paper. I remember being disappointed, having to research a modern industrial designer.
This chance occurrence came to change the way I thought about design and furniture. Most of the timeless design was created in the 1950’s and is therefore much copied even today. It was only later that I also realised I’d been influenced by Eames before, as a child reading ‘Power of Ten’ a book that zooms both into the atomic and deep space and puts things into perspective on a cosmic scale.
As your work progresses and you make and learn and get older and tastes change and the world changes. Eventually dissatisfaction or tedium sets in, with a particular way of working. The pieces might function well enough, but the making and manufacture, require far too many machines and procedures and complicated joints, and you start to question if the work is fulfilling or whether the entire operation is more suited to a machine than a human… there is a feeling that something’s missing, which is hard to define exactly, though is probably to do with what I like to call the ‘unknown’ or the call to adventure or the risk of exploration, free carving and trying new things, this is why for me, Blunk, Noll and the bizarre animal forms of Lalanne inspire and help with the belief that everything is alright in the world, and there are pathways ahead that are not just about trammelling a straight line.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!