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Object of the Week

‘Harmony-Circle’ armchair, 2012

Xiao Tianyu

By TDE Editorial Team / 14th October 2020
Xiao Tianyu, 'Harmony-Circle' armchair, 2012 COURTESY: Lyon & Turnbull

Xiao Tianyu, ‘Harmony-Circle’ armchair, 2012
COURTESY: Lyon & Turnbull

THIS ARMCHAIR HAS the succinct poetic force of a Tang poem. The traditionally carved, elegant arms and back, inspired by Ming models, rise out of an amorphous, cloud-like, upholstered base. The image is exact, though its meanings ramify. 

Tianyu has explained that the conjunction came out of a desire to marry the Chinese idea of seriousness and grandeur, sitting upright in formal splendour, with the western emphasis on comfort and graceful languor. But you could also see in the base a giant pebble, or a Philosopher’s Stone, another distinctly Chinese motif, and in the contrasts between materials a distinctively western playfulness. The ‘Harmony-Circle’ is thus not just the embrace of the elmwood arms, it is the benign circular conversation between traditional Chinese craft techniques and aesthetics, and western design values. 

The ‘Harmony’ series was Tianyu’s graduation project from the Chinese Central Academy of Fine Arts, in Beijing, where he graduated in 2010. He had developed there a strong interest in local craft and traditional design, influenced partly by time spent in the countryside and partly by his friendship with the distinguished designer and curator Song Tao. Tao is a passionate advocate of Chinese contemporary design and himself pioneered a quintessentially hybrid design approach, balancing and appealing to both eastern and western sensibilities. 

This armchair, number three of an edition of eight, has the force of an original inspiration. It is on view in London at the Mall Galleries 20th – 23rd October, the London base of Edinburgh auction house, Lyon & Turnbull, ahead of their live online sale, MODERN MADE: Modern & Post-War Art, Design & Studio Ceramics.  

This chair is up for auction on 23rd October at Lyon and Turnbull. Estimate £3,000 – £5,000.

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