Chairs have featured in my work of late. This has grown out of the focus on interiors that merge with the wild or natural world and the recent work have done with a doll’s house around the theme of entropy. The chairs seem to be proliferating! What follows is a reflection on their presence and the possible sets of meanings that they may call up. They have also come to be loaded with meaning and function in the context of my work.
First off the Material nature of chairs. Chairs obviously come in various formats but the first chairs were of natural materials, some perhaps just stones that were the right height and/or location to sit on. Chairs of wood, have a long history and that is a book in its own right, the evolution of styles and forms – from the simple to the baroque. Chairs are our staple furniture – from the humble witch’s cottage in woods to the grand house: from bodger to Hepplewhite. They are built with stability in mind in almost all cases; having to hold a body and make it feel safe. Geometry and physics, all working together with the fundamental material, stylistic bent, and tools/techne available. Chairs are therefore very Human, of the domestic, and made for our comfort (misericords excepted!). Built around the human body, to support and allow it to rest. Groups of chairs congregate for social affordance, conviviality, ritual, eating, or sadness. While the empty chair signifies loss or absence.
In my work, I’ve been placing chairs or sofas in work that has been often painted en plein air. Working with the inside-out theme and implying a radical absence of the other. That is why there is never anyone sitting in these chairs. The chairs are also placed out of place; no longer sited in a human-designed space but out in the wild they become lonely, abandoned, forlorn. This second-order symbolic meaning also extends to the ways in which a chair might afford a different view of the world- to that afforded by standing. Disrupting the ‘masterful’ gaze by making that which is gazed upon larger…placing the viewer in the place of child, or someone who is a wheelchair user maybe even a completely different physical form. I have often used chairs that are doll-house-sized to emphasize this shifted implied viewpoint and scale in the work. Chairs then in my work are symbolic, poetic, attitudinal, autotelic, and a visual, theatrical device. They are becoming part of the symbolic visual language that seems to be developing in my work. Finding the mark-making language is another matter and at present, I am aware that my inclination is very 19th century and rather low on the scale of abstraction.