Die Es by Gwen & Gawie Fagan : Interview : Antonia Heil Photography: Desmond Louw & Antonia Heil via freunde von freunden
Depending on where you stand, the Fagan’s self-built home ‘Die Es’ has a mountain or seaside backdrop. ‘Die Es’ – meaning ‘the hearth’ – is situated on the Atlantic Seaboard in Camps Bay, but it feels more like it’s on a little farm with its own private nature reserve. The house itself and most things in it are handmade by couple Gwen and Gawie Fagan, their son and three daughters. Today it’s just the two of them living here. It’s a magical place with magical people who have lived long and full lives.
Sitting around a table with Gwen and Gawie drinking a hot cup of Rooibos tea, we listen to a collection of stories experienced over almost a century. They speak about a career spanning almost 70 years, hard work and successes, and 65 years of marriage and family life.
As one of South Africa’s most celebrated architects, Gawie’s ideas concerning connecting architecture with the natural landscape were revolutionary. Over the years, Gwen played an instrumental role as a historical researcher and landscape planner in Gawie’s practice. Together they share a love of designing new buildings just as much as restoring old ones.
The two destroyed buildings of the original Walter Gropius-designed Bauhaus site, House Gropius and House Moholy-Nagy, have been recreated – well, sort of. Florian Heilmeyer explores the complicated, contested history and issues around the reconstruction…or rather recreation…or better still, reinterpretion of two iconic architectural ghosts from the past.
With both Fien Muller and Hannes Van Severen being artists, it’s natural that the collection sits somewhere between design and art – it’s obviously ‘furniture’ but the emphasis is not completely concentrated on function and suggests different ways of living and use of space… an uncanny twist on universal forms. Fien Muller’s photography is suggestive of someone who considers everything in her daily life to be up for participation in the theatre of her compositions – whether choosing her characters from the woodpile, scavenging Hannes’ offcuts or realising the sculptural aspect of a skinned eel, nothing escapes the pot. It seems it’s not so much the qualities of an individual object that are important, but what happens when that object is introduced to another. Her sense of colour is extraordinary in the same way, with quite odd combinations – sometimes subtle, sometimes glaringly opposing, but always with a harmonious result. Fien’s interest in the material is also apparent in her art works, as below with the contrast in texture of the hand chopped wood and the plastic wood effect. It’s not necessary to ask why she has selected these elements to sit together but these incongruous objects are somehow compatible and appropriate. The work of Hannes is often the other way around – with the familiar becoming absurd, in the sense that it loses it’s function and turns irrational. A staircase laid on its side goes nowhere and a closet run through the circular saw loses its balance. The everyday is turned on its head and apparent function negated. The inspiration of their art world is readily seen in the furniture collection with forms reminiscent of Donald Judd or Sol Lewitt but with the humour that comes with collaborations such as that of Fischli & Weiss, who also created from the commonplace and familiar. There is wit in both artists’ work which follows into their furniture collection – two shelving units become entangled and inseperable, two people are forced into conversation by a double seat or the colour range might be dependent on the health and safety colour-coding of a chopping board manufacturer. Its hard to not be reminded of the self-taught, experimental and collaborative Jean Prouvé, who also didn’t work within the constraints of a particular discipline. The feeling you get is of the creators living their lives with the ‘work’ being an equal and necessary aspect of human existence alongside sitting, eating, reading, talking… The Muller Van Severen collection invites participation – the chopping boards and trivets are wall sculptures that adapt to a functional role and change in appearance with use; the double facing seat only achieves its potential with use – two people engaging and perhaps forming new ideas, flirting or just sharing a bit of banter. In this instance, the process of ‘designing’ appears to be more like a conversation and an evolution of ideas, with one finished product inspiring the next – hence the collection working so well as a whole. Working as a duo obviates the individual ego all too prevalent in both the design and art world and allows each object to just exist. The distinction between art and design narrows when the intention of the creators is not to produce one or the other, but to just create and live, and certainly not for the sake of becoming a name to look out for… although, whether through choice or not, this has become the case for both Fien Muller and Hannes Van Severen.
Text: Jonathan Barrie photos and text via Mulle Van Severen
For many years, Australian-based artist Ken Unsworth has made viewers hold their breath with his timeless work entitledSuspended Stone Circle II. The installation was first completed in 1974 and produced again in 1988, and is awe-inspiring in both its fragility and volume. Unsworth used 103 river stones each weighing about 33 pounds and bound them together by three sets of wires that were tied to rings and secured to the ceiling. They form a suspended disc, with each element resting perfectly in its place. The sculptor hung the stones so that their center of gravity falls on the central axis of the disc, and each stone is equal distance from one another. As they remain in midair, their cone-shaped stabilizing wires mimic a force field, and it’s almost as if they are held up by this energy. Unsworth’s installation is peaceful, balanced, and even a little nerve wracking – at any moment, the work could theoretically come tumbling down. Unsworth first gained popularity as a sculptor in the 1970’s when he combined performance art with minimalist forms. In addition to stones, the artist has created other monumental works, including a piece titled Rapture, where a grand piano is formed into a large set of stairs. text and photos via : my modern met