'Sculpture at furniture scale' is the tagline coined by Christopher Stuart to describe his latest series, a collection of abstract, juxtaposing geometries constructed from various metal like cold-rolled steel and mirror polished bronze.
That collection, titled Constructs & Glitches, debuted as a solo show at The Future Perfect Gallery in May this year. Taking inspiration from constructivism and the occasional malfunctions encountered when operating CAD software, the collection explores intentional and unintentional distortion in functional and non-functional forms.
'Constructs & Glitches is really the first time where I started thinking about object as sculpture,' says Stuart. Centre to the collection was his 'U Bench', an exploration in the simplicity of the circle, a form only completed when viewed from the side of the piece.
The line between art and design is a fine one, but it’s one that Stuart walks well. 'I call myself an artist and designer with the work I am doing,' says Stuart. The role of the artist/designer isn’t new — it’s a dichotomy embraced by Scott Burton and Isamu Noguchi, both heavy influences to Stuart’s work — but one that he is putting his own spin on through his use of new technologies and processes.
Deconstructing familiar furniture archetypes has become a hallmark of Stuart’s work, and it’s that boundary pushing that put him on the map of Cadillac, who invited him as one of three designers and artists to create a custom piece using materials from their extensive library — the same library being pulled from the XT5, a new crossover vehicle from the brand. 'The building was beautiful,' recalls Stuart of his visit to Cadillac’s landmark GM Tech Center in Warren, Michigan. 'I was greeted by members of the design team and got to pick their brains and talk shop. They took me down a long hallway that opened up to a small room, where we were able to check out the XT5 firsthand. Truly impressive.'
Continuing his investigation of sculpture at furniture scale, Stuart is using the opportunity to explore single curved surfaces, a familiar form found in 3D modelling, created through bending a planar surface without stretching, cutting, or wrinkling the material. 'I call it "SCS Series" for single curved surface,” says Stuart. 'I'll only be making one object. At the moment, I am considering a bench. Cadillac’s used to have bench seats and I seem to like designing benches.'
Stuart is planning on using Cadillac’s natural Sapele veneer, a material that struggles with compound curvature, further constraining the possible number of bends in his final design. 'Veneer acts much like paper when you try to form it,' says Stuart. 'I used that as a variable in my design, limiting myself to only single curved surfaces.'
For inspiration, Stuart plans to pull from the work of Richard Artschwager and Paul Evans, as well as designs seen at Cadillac’s GM Tech Center. 'The piece should simultaneously feel like the interior and exterior of an automobile, as well as furniture and sculpture,' says Stuart. We can’t wait to see where it takes him.