Friedman Benda is pleased to present British designer Paul Cocksedge’s fourth solo show with the gallery entitled Performance. The exhibition explores the processes of craft with three bodies of work that capture and express their theatricality in material form: Performance, Push and Excavation. Examining the relationship between maker and audience, and the idea of the outsider watching the craftsperson at work, each series is a vehicle for storytelling, drawing inspiration from and abstracting the physical process of making.
The Performance series follows the centuries-old technique of glassblowing, one that Cocksedge has been interested in for over a decade. For this series, Cocksedge synthesized the finished blown glass objects and the tools and materials used in this process to create his final works. Cherry wood molds have been shaped and finished using CNC-cutting, and molten glass blown into them to create a singular glass object. Rather than discarding the blackened and burnt wood after use, it has been rotated, moved, twisted, cut up and reassembled like a puzzle, and transformed into a piece of furniture that sits beneath the suspended glass object. For one table, Cocksedge sliced metal to create infinite possible variations similar to a digital code, with the result reminiscent of a canvas filled with lines and forms, that the viewer is left to decode.
The Push series brings giant blocks of concrete together with sheets of metal, curled up like large paper quills and inserted into the blocks where they unfurl and lock into place. These large-scale sculptural seating works explore the tension between the two materials through the cantilever and the drastic contrast between the two materials.
This exhibition also presents Excavation, the follow-up to Cocksedge’s acclaimed Excavation: Evicted series, which saw him turn concrete cores mined from beneath his studio into pieces of furniture. For Excavation, the designer collected cores drilled from around the country by essential workers during lockdown, which were used to blow glass to create a suspended lighting fixture to accompany the piece. As such, the process is a kind of record of the pandemic, capturing a moment in time. “They’re not just any random block of concrete, they’re part of a moment in time when the world felt upside down,” says Cocksedge.
I’ve spent years watching glassblowers, and feeling like an observer seeing a performer. I wanted to express the relationship between maker and audience with this body of work, and close the distance between the two. It’s about capturing the physicality of the making - the heat, the marks, the smell and the burning. Usually, the pristine end product is the focus, but I wanted to bring the rawness of the actual process to the forefront.