Snapshot Paintings

Everyone knows how difficult it is to ‘capture’ the spirit of a place through photographs. And yet we still take a spontaneous snapshot because the scene or the moment somehow represents the character of that space and our experience of it.

A brief visit to New York earlier this year was hastily recorded with photos ‘on the go’. Later, when I had a chance to review them, I realized that I was actually trying to record textures, reflections, the luminosity of the architecture at twilight or at night, the blur of people passing along the avenues, and other intangible impressions.

Two of these snapshots were reinterpreted as paintings to celebrate  the qualities of light and materiality that I experienced in New York:

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A view of Broadway at night, with the Empire State building in the background.  I was drawn to the ethereal glow of the Empire State’s pinnacle, which appeared to float disembodied above the rest of the building.  The bright lights at street level accentuated the dark sky creating a strong contrasting band.

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Subway steps at twilight.  The warm colors of the concrete steps and cream-painted walls contrast with the blue twilight sky.  The surrounding buildings throw animistic shadows across the scene, lit by the muddy orange glow of the subway’s globe lights.

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The Dreaded Nest of Tables

As a design concept the ‘nest of tables’ must have fallen further out of fashion than almost any other furniture category.  And yet there are lessons we can learn from actual examples that could be reinterpreted to produce an exciting result.

This set is difficult to date, possibly 1930’s or immediate post-war.  The interesting feature is the pictorial finish to each table top:

The grouped image infers that the scenes are part of a greater, vertical composition, each table occupying an aspect of the visual field from near to far. In fact they are not interlinked, but this could be adopted in a reworked version to make a direct connection between the diminishing form of the nested tables and the diminishing horizon line of the image.

These tables from the 1950’s are matched rather than nested, but echo the first example through the use of color:

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Again, a reworked example using triangular nested forms could extend the theme of interconnection through the sequential use of complementary colors or shades.

The key design element for the nest of tables is surprise – as each table is revealed the surfaces have the potential to create a larger visual narrative.

‘King’s’ Chair

Here is an intriguing chair being offered through SF Craigslist. Described by the seller as a ‘king’s chair’ it combines a triangular leg configuration with circular or ovoid arms and a plank-style back. The proportions are equally unusual – 51″ high by 17″ deep by 23.5″ wide.

The design style is a peculiar hybrid of gothic detailing, modernist proportions and craftsman materials (quarter-sawn oak). The piece could easily be reworked to give the impression of a mid-century modern piece or even a Memphis-style offering from the 1980’s.