13 August 2015

6.00 – 8.00pm

Gallery Viewing 14 – 16 August

9.30am – 5.30pm


In a world groaning under the design weight of chairs, tables, shelves, cabinets, bookcases, and lights, the sensible answer to the question of ‘do we need another chair?’ is ‘no’. But once in a blue-moon, pieces present that say and do something new. They typically display a formidable skill; reveal the inherent property of a material and evidence a quality of making that assures a lifetime of service. And, in this digitally driven age, as diversity disappears and the ephemeral defines nearly every experience, they are nearly always made by hand.


The best articulations of this slow-cooked craft dovetail past memory and future inquiry, ergonomic efficiency and emotional authenticity, and they know how to nourish head, hand, heart and eye. They are few, but they are fleshing out a new definition of luxury as: time-loaded, fully embodied craft that hides a complexity of critical thought and contemporary concern.


It’s why the best designers are forgoing the furniture showrooms (filled with the usual suspects of design) and seeking out the back-street ateliers where the art-end makers work.


This is where you will find Freddy Ganim, the 32 year old Melbourne-based artist, whose DNA has determined that he would one-day do something of design consequence. And that day has come! Attempting the design triple-pike, Ganim has hand-crafted a collection of fine furniture that is timeless, but of its time; that nods to past movements while saluting 21st century Australian style; that speaks of our cultural sophistication while serving basic human needs. “Fashions may change,” he says. “But the human form doesn’t.”


As the son of Anthony and Rae Ganim – inducted into the Design Institute of Australia’s Hall of Fame in 1998 – Ganim claims to have subliminally absorbed their aesthetic. “The more you see good stuff, the more its seeps into your psyche,” he says of the fashion, interiors and textile design discussions and displays that defined his youth. “Mum and dad are both in this body of work, I may think I design intuitively, but their influence is everywhere.”


Ready to release an eight piece family of hand-crafted furniture that will be available in limited editions, Ganim runs through the collection’s constituents: a chair, a television cabinet, a shelving unit, a dining table, a book-stand, a coffee table, a pin-board, and the piece that none of us knew we desperately needed or wanted - a ‘dump’-pole.


The Dump-Pole, the purpose of which is plainly expressed in its name, integrates an ingenious screw-jack system (used to customise building block systems on construction sites) into a finely-crafted fibreglass pole fitted with circular platforms and steel rings for the placement of stuff: a light, keys, coats – “whatever you want to dump when you walk through the door”. The combinations and permutations speak of current consumer desires to self-program space. “I’m a surfer,” says Ganim, by way of telling that the light-weight core-pole, which alludes to our coastal culture, was customised by a surfboard maker. “You can calibrate it to fit any ceiling height and circumstance. How cool would it be to furnish a room with a forest of poles?”


The same screw-jack system serves to customise a shelving unit, the off-ground, backless articulation of which works to consume half the space of standard equivalents. It does double-duty as a room-divider and recalls the mobility, modularity and double ambiguities of furniture by Gae Aulenti, the Italian designer who reacted against modernism while working in existing contexts and playing with the past.   


Ganim’s eight-place Maple Dining Table is a stadium shape with rounded retro edges and a very suggestive centre slit that provokes commentary about the femaleness of its form. Six months in the conceptualising, it sits on two circular pedestal legs that provoke comparison to industrial pillars. Any child of the 1970’s will read into its aerodynamic form the space-age utopia of The Jetson’s – the animated American sit-com in which all zipped around in jet-fired pods. But for Ganim that influence is probably filtered through the eye of industrial designer, Mark Newson who’s ‘Jetsonian’ aesthetic has slyly impacted on all who interface with an Apple product.

“I think arches were running around my head,” says Ganim, citing design influences as diverse as the plaster sculptures by Ricky Swallow and the disused century-old cement factory in Spain that was converted by architect, Ricardo Bofill into a multi-use development in 1973. “The central slit is another double-ended arch…the rolled edge flowing to the legs.”


The TV Tabernacle is an elegantly proportioned piece, with a cruciform alignment of veneered front panels the name of which alludes to the television screen as the household focus of worship. It is small in depth, lofty in height and perches on four slim legs that lend it an anthropomorphic quality. It is a prayer answered for those who hate the largesse and the black-hole presence of the modern TV screen.


The Coffee Table reminds of the ribbon-like fluidity of architect, Frank Gehry’s early furniture forms, but this baby is not constructed in quick-cut cardboard, rather a complex joining of solid timbers that suggest the material is totally malleable. “Sanding and feeling, sanding and feeling, sanding and feeling,” says Ganim of the exhaustive process of rendering the surface with a marble-like matte finish. “Short-cuts are easy, but satisfaction is contingent upon the making - setting the impossible challenge for my-self and seeing it realised.”


The ‘Do Not Sit’ seat – “so-named because mum kept propping on it before it was sealed” – features fluid legs that are legible as a ‘Z’ on the side. It harks back to the bended lines of Marcel Breuer’s 1930’s ‘Long Chair’ with a bit of post-modernist 1980’s Memphis thrown in. But there’s none of the flashy colours of Sottsass and crew, rather a raw Australian honesty that lets the solid maple timber express.


“The restrictions are totally in the timber,” says Freddy of forms that would be made mighty easy if mass-produced as moulded plastic. “But isn’t that the point. I’m not into fashioning follies but I do like the idea of transcending function with a bit of a game, then editing it all back.”