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'The Shape of Things' by Simone Brewster bridges narratives of form and heritage
The Shape of Things exhibition by Simone Brewster at the NOW Gallery
Image: Charles Emerson

'The Shape of Things' by Simone Brewster bridges narratives of form and heritage

The artist, designer, educator and 'cultural change-maker' explores design’s impact on beauty, function, equality, and representation, with The Shape of Things exhibition.

by Aarthi Mohan
Published on : Aug 11, 2023

In a dynamic fusion of art, design and cultural commentary, Simone Brewster’s The Shape of Things exhibition hosted by the NOW design gallery in London, unveils a thought-provoking, immersive exploration of the intrinsic relationship between objects, societal expectations, and personal empowerment, and the powerful messages they illicit.

In an emotive display of furniture, painting, jewellery, and sculpture, the UK- based product designer challenges the normative boundaries of design, encouraging visitors to introspect and rethink their perspectives on everyday objects and the allied narratives they carry. The exhibition’s boldly-coloured and geometric design invites visitors to a sensory experience. It is not just a visual fete, but an invitation to navigate the intricacies of societal narratives woven into each creation.

Drawing from her rich background as part of the African Diaspora, Brewster’s work stands as a poignant bridge between Western and African visual languages. On view from June 29 - September 24, 2023, the arts and design exhibition becomes a vibrant tapestry where materials and forms intertwine with cultural history and tradition, resonating with themes of heritage, memory, race, gender and form. In this masterful convergence, the architect and visual artist tackles nuanced dialogues, delivering an experience that engages both heart and mind.

“There are so many elements of Simone Brewster’s work that make her perfect for our Summer Design exhibition. Her playful and thoughtful use of so many media, from her paintings to her complex objects, all examine her design world of carefully considered history, identity, social construct and feminist discourse. Her interest in the essence of shapes and their place in design shine through in this exhibition and this element will be an interactive part”, says Jemima Burrill, curator of NOW Gallery.

At the heart of Brewster’s showcase lies the concept of 'intimate architecture.' This exploration delves into the profound impact of texture and three-dimensional form on memory and emotion, reflecting the subtle yet potent ways objects communicate societal expectations of beauty and representation, with each piece bearing the hidden linguistics of design interwoven with prevailing ideologies.

Among the collections on display is the evocative 'Negress,' a chaise lounge which encapsulates a modernist reinterpretation of the black female body. This deconstructed perspective challenges and questions primitivistic and cubist interpretations of the subject. A noteworthy acquisition by the Smithsonian in 2022, this piece by the British artist beckons viewers to confront their perceptions with its thought-provoking form. Brewster critiques and interrogates historical interpretations, sparking a dialogue about representation and self-empowerment.

Tropical noire, a series of vessels, weaves an intricate tapestry between totemic statues, Greek vessels, and sub-Saharan African sculpture art. The collection pulsates with Brewster’s signature bold style, intertwining ethnic and architectural elements that resonate across her diverse creations. The echoes of these themes extend to her paintings, drawings, and jewellery, forming a cohesive narrative that encapsulates her artistic identity.

Brewster’s comb sculptures are emblematic of her celebration of African heritage and Black-British design—These wearable sculptures serve as both homage and commentary, intertwining the political and personal. Through these designs, the sculpture artist and educator addresses crucial issues of race, gender and visibility within the realm of design and architecture, asserting a strong presence.

The Shape of Things transcends the boundaries of traditional art showcases, resonating a strong dialogue, and intertwining the visual with the sociocultural, the form with the narrative. Through her creations, Brewster, who has been hailed as a 'cultural change-maker,' urges us to re-imagine the beauty, heritage, and power imbued within the shape of things.

Speaking on her experience of the exhibition, Brewster relays, “I am excited to have the opportunity to present my work at the Summer Design Exhibition. NOW gallery is the perfect space to show the diversity of my work across many different media. While my paintings have been featured in the Royal Academy, furniture designs at the Museum of London and jewellery at Collect, this is the first time they are being shown together. Race, womanhood, function and beauty span the different media in which I work while taking on many forms, from the architectural nature of 'Tropical Noir' to the fluid strokes of my painting."

Discover Simone Brewster’s perspective on ‘The Shape of Things’ exhibition, as she unravels how objects shape societal ideals and emotions through ‘intimate architecture’ in an exclusive video presentation Image: Courtesy of NOW Gallery

Step into ‘The Shape of Things’ exhibition, where the influence of objects on societal norms, beauty ideals, and personal empowerment is explored. Through the lens of ‘intimate architecture’, discover how texture and form weave into our memories and emotions. Watch a video presentation by NOW gallery, exclusively shared with STIR, where Simone Brewster unravels the intricacies of her artistic genius, providing unique insights into her creative process.

Discover Simone Brewster’s ‘The Shape of Things’, featured as part of NOW Gallery’s 2023 Design Commission, at the London Design Festival from September 16 to 24, 2023.

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