“We needed to preserve the naïveté, the point of creation.” — Faye Toogood.
In 2010, Faye Toogood unveiled Assemblage 1, a group of handmade pieces that included the Spade Chair (2010), a slender, contemporary hybrid of two traditional British objects: a three-legged milking stool and the handle of a shovel. Since then, Toogood’s career is marked out by the discrete Assemblages, each of which conjures a compact world of interrelated ideas, forms, and materials. Assemblages 2 through 5 saw Toogood exploring new materials like steel mesh, fiberglass, bronze and glass, new media like tapestry and sculpture, and new forms, such as her immediately recognizable voluminous Roly-Poly Chair (2014), which reflected her experience of motherhood. Her first collaboration with Friedman Benda, Assemblage 5, was inspired by a visit to Henri Matisse’s Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence explored ancient animist notions of the elements water, earth and moon through a personal lens.
Assemblage 6: Unlearning, Faye Toogood’s second collaboration with the gallery, marks a dramatic rupture in Faye Toogood’s creative trajectory, in which she has set out to ‘unlearn’ the process of design, and build it up again from scratch. This has led her to a conflation of furniture and sculpture, which draws upon the shifting perspectives encountered in childhood fables. The playful qualities of rough-hewn maquettes, broken up by the corrugations of crumpled paper and masking tape, are recast at functional scale – daybeds, chairs and consoles, manufactured in cast bronze, wrought iron and rough canvas. Taken as a whole, the collection suggests how deceptive first appearances can be. Trompe-l’oeil effects imitate the twisted wires and taped cardboard of the original models, preserving the creative steps that led to their own genesis even as the true materials of their construction are disguised. The designs suggest the aleatory qualities of folk art or found objects – yet every crinkle and crease has been carefully considered and recreated. And though they still evoke a moment of unforced naïveté, in which a shape is first roughed out, their imposing physicality betrays the involvement of numerous skilled hands.
Glenn Adamson, Senior Scholar at the Yale Center for British Art, comments, “Faye Toogood’s new Assemblage is a tour de force of thinking and making, which hides in plain sight. Through an ingenious set of imitative processes, she and her team have devised a way to do justice to that first, instinctive moment that a form comes into being. There is tremendous energy in this moment, and each work in the Assemblage is in effect a monument to that quality of instantaneous creativity.”
Designs for furniture, lighting, scenography, sculpture and large scale tapestries are presented alongside 17th century artworks from the NGV Collection in a series of crafted spaces. Exploring the themes of daylight, candlelight and moonlight, Toogood plunges us deep into a period sensibility – which witnessed the birth of capitalism and the emergence of the ‘enlightenment’ – using her own innovative designs as a connecting device to the past. Toogood sees her work as Gesamtkunstwerk; a total work of art, whereby the interior – all works of art and design, and their display – synthesise to deliver with full effect the experience and meaning of her presentation.