Design Matters: artist Martino Gamper on how the human body informs his furniture design, and why there's no such thing as a perfect chair.

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DESIGN MATTERS: THE ELEMENTS

Contact: Martino Gamper

 

“What happens to the status and potential of a plastic garden chair when it is upholstered with luxurious yellow suede?” In the first episode of a new six-part Design Matters video series in collaboration with Frieze, designer and artist Martino Gamper tells us about the idea of contact: how the human body informs his approach to furniture design

 
 

100 Chairs

In his seminal project 100 Chairs In 100 Days, Martino Gamper went to great lengths to reexamine what must be one of the most ancient objects ever conceptualised by the modern human. We take chairs entirely for granted, will sit on dozens of different types for hours of our lives, yet most are mass-produced and disposable. 

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“... there is no perfect chair for anyone”

Only potential

We will all have different ideas of what makes a chair comfortable, or aesthetically pleasing. Playing with this, Gamper collected broken and abandoned chairs and combined and reconstructed them into a brand new object each day. It raised questions about how we define what is throwaway or, conversely, a beautiful object in our culture - as Gamper said at the time, “What happens to the status and potential of a plastic garden chair when it is upholstered with luxurious yellow suede?” Gamper is a man who, when he looks at what we might consider to be an ordinary chair, sees only potential.

Playful creations

Under his hands, a mass-produced chair is nipped, sliced at, sanded and repainted and, while the basic concept of the chair and its role supporting the human form remains, the Gamper chair becomes his own, at times almost playful, creation. It's a return to craft away from unsustainable, identikit and uncomfortable furniture, fashioned by the simple woodworking tools that he mastered when he moved to post-industrial London in the late 1990s to start exploring his creative identity. 

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New chairs

His new chairs push the chair to the limit of the limit of what's possible when it comes to actually sitting down, and what and when we might want to use the chair - for reading, sitting, eating, and so on. A chair, as well as being vital to help our posture and, medical scientists argue, our core health, also might, as Gamper puts it, “give us a sense of what we want to surround ourselves with”. 

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Striking Objects

This translation of identikit object to something individual that might suit different people in entirely different ways all stems from Gamper's careful, hand-tooled, workshop approach. After all, a striking object intended to be sat on, or held, ought to have the sensation of touch at its genesis. As Gamper says, “there is no perfect chair for anyone”. His quest continues.

 
 
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Design Matters video series

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People, In the details