Sun, Dec 14, 2003 - Page 19 News List

New furniture for hip people

Good contemporary design is not often associated with Israel, but a new exhibition shows the country known for conflict has other qualities


Umbrellight by Raviv Lifshitz.


Amorphous chairs, outrageously colored lamps and many other contemporary designs have gradually moved into "hip" households in Taiwan. As Germany and Scandinavian countries are still most often associated with contemporary design in people's minds here, the current exhibition at Taipei Fine Arts Museum (台北市立美術館) sheds light on a quite different and sometimes more interesting world of designs.

Domains -- Contemporary Israeli Design (領域: 當代以色列設計展) is a traveling exhibition aimed at audience in East Asia and the Pacific region. To present a rounded sampling of contemporary Israeli design, well-known designers are exhibiting, such as Yaacov Kaufman -- who works for Lumina Italia -- as well as rising talents such as Ron Gilad, whose bullet-shot vase caught much attention at the opening of the show. Most of the 10 designers have gained increasing international recognition for their innovative works with a unique identity.

Nirith Nelson, curator of Domains, explains at the opening of the exhibition that the short history of the state of Israel encourages designers to try out innovative concepts while the diversity of ethnic groups contributes to the variety of design approaches. The unstable political situation and limited economy in Israel, Nelson said, has turned designers' attention to improvisation and quick-fixes instead of time-consuming complex devices.

These improvisations are usually very amusing and original. Some of them have a pristine kind of beauty.

Yaacov Kaufman had in mind humanity's first chair when he designed Potchim. This one-off piece uses a complete block of tree trunk, part of which is still covered with bark. By making only two cuts and fixing a pair of hinges on the trunk, it becomes a folding chair. A similar trunk is cut only once, in a long "s" curve, to become a pair of chairs which easily blend in with a forest.

A recent graduate from Israel's well-known Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Sharon Peter Shechter incorporates the element of time in his furniture design in a humourous way. In Lamp Table, a table with book ends, Shechter cuts the veneer of formica from the wood table surface and bends the protruding formica to form the stem of a lamp and book ends. In Israeli households, there are countless tables which share this peeling-veneer appearance, only there it was caused by wear.

Probably the most beautiful work in the exhibition is Ami Drach and Dov Ganchrow's Ga-mish, which looks nothing like a household object. The framed flexible plywood strips forms a vertical fretwork.

Placed against a wall, it can be a shelf of flexible compartments. Standing alone, it can be a room partition, or a floor window suitable for a Mediterranean climate. Whatever it is, the structure is a pleasure to look at. Pleasure, according to the curator Nelson, is one of the main triggers of Israel design today.

Domains -- Contemporary Israeli Design will run through Feb. 15 at Taipei Fine Arts Museum, 181, Zhongshan N Rd, Sec 3, Taipei. (中山北路三段181).

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