‘I have no doubt that you will immediately be confronted by humour, the inventiveness and the genius of Ron Arad,’ states Ben Brown, founder of the contemporary arts space Ben Brown Fine Arts. Tucked away in his Mayfair mews is the latest exposé of the creative maverick's sculptural and avant-garde works.
Ben Brown’s relationship with the artist started when he opened a Hong Kong space with a show of Arad's works in 2009. Nearly a decade later, that bond stays strong with the opening of 'Summer Exhibition'. Wallpaper* quizzed Arad how he decided which pieces would go into the compact show. ‘It’s always a problem, you always want to show everything,' he explains. 'But you need it be restrained and coherent to look like a good show.’
The result is a wonderful mix, with many pieces showing for the first time, in an intimate exploration of Arad’s mind through his crafted forms. The newest piece is 'Useful, Beautiful, Love' – a mobile, rocking log of cedar wood carved into a bench that brought the organic indoors. Imbued with Arad’s quirky details, the seat is engraved with a William Morris quote, with the addition of ‘or love’ at the end. ‘It can mean whatever you want it to,' he muses, 'it is not prescriptive.’ Drawing on the design for the Moroso ‘Glider' sofa, that also rocks back and forth, Arad wanted to shock the audience with something larger and heavier that can move similarly smoothly and gracefully.
And the unique juxtapositions do not stop there. Displayed in the gallery windows are three new sculptures, intriguingly fusing glass and steel. ‘Normally you blow glass into moulds,' Arad explains of the melding, 'and here I wanted to blow glass into something else. No moulds, let the glass blow as it wants to.’
The Bucket vase sculpture sees a range of country names – Chile, Liechtenstein, Seychelles, Fiji – carved into steel. These were the only countries that when written in capital letters, nothing drops, Arad explains. The type remains linear. 'We could not include any Os or Ds or Ps,’ he adds.
This experimental synergy continues through the room, across the 'Even the Oddballs' chairs, 'Tuba' steel sofa and, finally, the 'Puddles' series of coffee tables that crawl along the floor, creating artistic mirror and shadow images across the white walls. These play with the contrastingly opaque, rusty form of the 'BTT2' rocking chair and all come together outside in Free Standing China, an abstract sculpture that untilises both shiny steel and raw Corten steel.
Arad’s whimsical world was flummoxing to at least one viewer: ‘My favourite question at the opening was "Why did you use the Disney typeface for the text on 'Useful, Beautiful, Love'?" And I replied, that’s my handwriting!’