Presenting poetic perspectives on the intertwining of art, design, materiality, and nature, the latest collection by contemporary Chinese design practice Chen Shujie Studio, has rendered a fine abstraction on these concepts, through a series of vases. Comprising four individual pieces, each distinct and drastically divergent in their functional expression, the works are titled Rope, Theater, Multi-view 01, and LEGO. However, in spite of this, there is a subtle consistency in how each piece articulates ideas that gave birth to it, observed in the sculptural minimalism shared by the vases. In the product designers’ view, vases are a miniature medium of linking nature and interior spaces, and the collection articulates these ideas in multitude ways.
The first among the quartet of pieces is titled Rope, and applies water absorbency of cotton rope to render a visual effect reminiscent of a tree branch, that also serves a functional dimension in the product’s use as a vase. Employing a metal water storage cylinder as its base, or rather its trunk, the product design makes use of an aluminium wire inserted into the rope in order to give it a discrete form which twirls around the stem of the plant it hosts.
What this gives rise to is a form that displays a transition from a strong, machined geometric design language to a more fluid vocabulary, culminating in the life it holds within its grasp. In effect, the flower appears to be detached from the vase, yet also intimately tied to it. The lightness of the form and simplicity of operation are impressive in the clarity of their articulation, hoisting the flower at an angle that both arouses tension, while also providing it with liquid nourishment, as it battles against gravity.
Next is a minimalist metal arch christened Theater, playing on the use of such elements in performance venues. Emblematic yet exceptionally simple in its visual language, this item in the collection flourishes in its use of illusion, producing what the designers call a “horizontal performance” with the flower it provides a home to. The stem of the flower is bent on one side into a receptacle containing water, with another cut stem placed perpendicular to the arch’s vertical for support. Delicately suspended between the structure’s span, the design radiates an air of drama, befitting the name it has been bestowed with, as perhaps the most attention-grabbing piece in the ensemble.
Xuan paper and lacquer are the basis for Multi-view 01, based on the notion of “plants emerging from the cracks between black rocks,” as expressed by the Chinese designers. A simple trapezoidal form in glossy shades of black, evokes sculpted volcanic rocks, glistening when laminated by moisture. The harsh angles of the vase permit it to be placed upright in three different orientations, each giving off a completely different impression of the piece, as well as the plant it accommodates.
Layers of painting and framing serve to heighten this versatility, along with a trio of punctured voids that can hold water and other landscape elements such as plants and rocks. This adaptability permits the vase to decorate a multitude of environments and settings in unique ways, each with a distinct identity. From the cohort of designs featured in the collection, Multi-view 01, could lend itself well to the most diverse range of contexts and applications, signalling its multidimensional aesthetic appeal.
Finally, rounding off the collection is LEGO, taking its name from the famed toy building blocks of the same name, assembled by placing glass tubes fixed into constructs made of LEGO blocks themselves. This segment of the collection delves into a plethora of different permutations and structural designs that can be created using this age-old toy construction member, enhancing the beauty of the pure white blocks, by complementing it with the glass and greenery.
From the sculptural to the modular, organic to chiselled geometric, Chen Shujie Studio has come up with a diverse assortment of outlooks on how a piece of homeware as rudimentary as a vase can take on new personas. Realised through a coherent design language that is restrained, striking, and emotionally evocative all at one, the collection is a stellar achievement for the studio, demonstrating their distinct eye for innovation and creative expression.
What do you think?