Part of the Furniture

19 September – 26 October 1997

An exhibition project which featured the work of 14 local artists – Graham Bennett, Bing Dawe, Donna Demente, Stephen Gleeson, Lorelei Jenner, Mark McEntyre, Rachel Malloch, Jennifer Matheson (the guest curator for this exhibition), Callum Pankhurst, Michael Reed, Sophie Sherriff, Sandra Thomson, Randall Watson and Loretta Young.

Contemporary design comes under the spotlight at the McDougall Art Annex with the opening of Part of the Furniture, an exhibition project initiated by the Robert McDougall Art Gallery, which features the work of 14 local artists – Graham Bennett, Bing Dawe, Donna Demente, Stephen Gleeson, Lorelei Jenner, Mark McEntyre, Rachel Malloch, Jennifer Matheson (the guest curator for this exhibition), Callum Pankhurst, Michael Reed, Sophie Sherriff, Sandra Thomson, Randall Watson and Loretta Young.

This exhibition, which includes wall and floor works in a diverse variety of media, will provide the artists with the opportunity to investigate the relationship between two areas of art practice, fine art and design, in either a functional or a conceptual manner. The pieces of furniture or installations will be very different to those made for commercial operations, with the demands of commercial production taking a back seat to artistic intent and expression. The works in this exhibition seek to challenge the way we think about the design that surrounds us in our everyday lives. Readily recognisable objects such as a bed, a chair and a television are all included, but don't expect to be able to sit down and relax, the artists have incorporated unexpected and often unsettling elements. Randall Watson's entry, TABLE/unSTABLE, is a kinetic work that will distort and collapse at the approach of a visitor, then slowly right itself again.

The artists in Part of the Furniture are all students, ex-students, tutors or lecturers from the city's principal tertiary institutions for art and design instruction, the University of Canterbury and the Christchurch Polytechnic. The inclusion of established artists such as Graham Bennett, Sandra Thomson and Bing Dawe, with mainly Fine Arts training, is intended to suggest that they may have wider applications for their work. It is hoped that artists new to textile design will bring fresh approaches and diverse stimuli to the media. Within this group, each artist will investigate the same issues they have explored within their usual media (film-making, painting, sculpture, printmaking, etc.), but with new materials which will challenge and broaden their art forms. Thomson's exhibit, Curtain: A Restrictive Entry alludes to the underwear and fashion present in her print works, but takes the form of a corseted fabric curtain, hanging from the wall and trailing along the ground.

The other group of artists, with mainly Craft Design training, are already working within these parameters. Part of the Furniture targets the Canterbury region, highlighting the exceptional standard of work already being achieved in the area of design.

With the intention of exploring and evaluating the position design currently holds within the high/low fine arts/craft tradition of debate, Part of the Furniture will also include a public forum in October featuring speakers who work professionally in the field of art and design.

This exhibition was held at the Robert McDougall Contemporary Art Annex in the Arts Centre.