Design into art – or is it the other way around? – British Council Exhibition for Japan Design Week

British Council Exhibition - Mark-ingWhen does art become design? Or design become art? Answers on a post card please (or in the comments box at the end of this post).

I started to think about this when I went to an exhibition this week – the British Council’s Mark-ing, which presents the work of eight Japanese designers and eight British designers together as part of Japan Design Week. So it should be an exhibition of design, right? Well, yes and no.

Design to me means objects that you can use. Tables and chairs, for instance – they’re definitely design, so we’re on safe ground there. There are several of them in the exhibition.

I liked the texture of this chair by Helen Amy Murray:

Helen Amy Murray - Magnified peony

And the simplicity of this one by Benjamin Hubert:

Benjamin Hubert - pelt

Or this stool by Max Lamb:

Max Lamb - hexagon pewter stool

But the tables by Jo Nagasaka were my favourites – I could see myself buying these:

Jo Nagasaka - flat table

Textiles fit the design bill as well. Like this one from Ismini Samanidou:

Ismini Samanidou - Double Line

At the other end of the scale come paintings and sculpture – objects that have value in themselves without having to do anything for you. That makes them art, not design in my book. There are several exhibits here that I would definitely put in the sculpture bracket.

This work, by Maiko Kurogouchi, is very attractive but not functional:

Maiko Kurogouchi - Skeleton

As is this one by Kouichi Okamoto:

Kouichi Okamoto - Light of thought

And this by Ryuiji Nakamura:

Ryuiji Nakamura - Water Lily

And especially this, by Geoffrey Mann, another work that I would have liked to take home with me even though it doesn’t do anything:

Geoffrey Mann - Shine

This picture is by paper-cut artist Risa Fukui:

Risa Fukui - Toddler

And this one, with its own light, by Moritz Waldemayer:

Moritz Waldemayer - Wushu sword

So that defines the design and art ends of the spectrum. That leaves us with the stuff in the middle. The objects that look like they’re going to be useful but aren’t. Like this black globe by Yuri Suzuki which I think is a spherical record though I can’t see how you play it:

Yuri Suzuki -the sound of the earth

Or this plastic milk bottle with holes in it by Makoto Orisaki, which I like very much but can’t see myself using.

Hole Works - Makoto Orisaki

Each designer has also provided an object (a ‘fragment’ of their consciousness) which has inspired them. Not surprisingly, Makoto Orisaki was inspired by….

Makoto Orisaki inspirational objects

Plastic bottles.

The exhibition is intended to highlight social, educational and cultural differences between the designers while also examining the global relationships that connect contemporary design and designers across the world.

Oh – I’m not sure it did that for me. But I definitely found it entertaining and thought -provoking, even though I didn’t have the kind of thoughts I was supposed to have. And I could have done with more information about the works on display as well as the designers’ biographies given in the catalogue.

Never mind – it’s worth a visit. It’s at the Libby Sellers Gallery in Berners St (just off Oxford St) until 25th January. So you can go along and decide for yourself.

Gallery Libby Sellers

4 thoughts on “Design into art – or is it the other way around? – British Council Exhibition for Japan Design Week

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