“ My new project started with a chair that I came across in the church of Saint Mary the Virgin in Oxford. The chair was a loose rectangular pillow on a wooden stool. I wanted to find a way to reshape that memory in one piece and make it functional. So by cutting the material in the right places without adding anything, I used a single piece to design the seat of the stool that includes a pillow and covers the overall seat with the minimum amount of seams. On one side, excess material that visually extends the form of the seat can be rolled up or draped over the back of the stool. The stool’s legs can be rotated upward to create a lean, if so desired.
Later, I came across the sculpture of Pauline Bonaparte as Venus Victrix by Antonio Canova (1805). Pauline is draped across a chaise longue, which led me to stretch the design of the stool in length, creating an almost paradoxical use for the piece of furniture. While the original stool was meant for prayer and stiff contemplation, by simply lengthening the proportion, its use changes entirely. A chaise longue accommodates a much more careless posture, evoking a sense of leisure which historically was only afforded to the privileged, acting as a central piece of furniture within a boudoir, the private room of a woman. In use, it allowed her to read, write, ponder and reflect. I am fascinated by how adjusting the proportion and changing the setting in which this piece of furniture is placed alters its interaction with the body.
Since beginning this project, I have been collecting references throughout history of women on chaises longues and studying their postures, behaviours, gestures, and their individual uses of the furniture. This all depended on what the society of each period decided was an appropriate way to portray a women’s being, intellect, status and femininity. Always, their bodies were placed delicately, almost draped on the structure that forms the chaise longue, supported only by cushions. So I started to directly translate those postures into wearable canvas sculptures, again cut from one piece. The patterns developed from full scale drawings on the canvas. The moment the sculpture is worn it immediately directs the body to impersonate the corresponding painting or art work. Because the canvas sculptures extract simplified forms from the paintings and art pieces, their historical, class, and gender context becomes more abstract and creates room for personal interpretations and experiences.
These sculptures are in progress and I continuously incorporate more paintings. It becomes a series of translated paintings. That might be also a way to revisit the bourgeois idea of using a piece of furniture and to consciously experience the appropriate body language in the eyes of an 18th century artist. Does it still correlate to the contemporary use of furniture or certain natural behaviours with, in this case, a chaise longue? ”
Lukas Gschwandtner, London, October 2020
Antonio Canova, (1805), Pauline Bonaparte as Venus Victrix (Venus Victorious), (White Marble)
Ramon Casas, (1899), Young Decadent, After the Ball, (Oil on Canvas)
Hippolyte-Dominique Berteaux, (1876), Odalisque with a Lute, (Oil on Canvas)
John White Alexander, (1895), Repose, (Oil on Canvas)
William Dargie, (1952), Yellow Couch, (Oil on Canvas)
Nikolai Bodarevsky, (1850-1921), The Artist’s Model, (Oil on Canvas)
Opening on Saturday, Feb 06
2 — 8 pm
Window performances by Lukas Gschwandtner at 4.30 & 7 pm