Adam and Arthur
THE ‘TALLEO’ TALLBOY is a startling and joyful object. Its unexpected – even comic – elongated, contemporary form is married to a virtuoso display of the luxurious 17th century technique of straw marquetry. Every detail of the object’s design – the curved and faceted surfaces of the birch ply carcass, the custom-made bronze hinges and bolts, the playful geometric patterns inspired by the lotus flower – has been chosen to enhance the impact of the extraordinary material. Light dances across the multicoloured rye straw, bringing to life its natural sheen.
This tallboy is one of three objects created by Adam and Arthur, the design partnership set up in 2015 by Sydney-based industrial designer Adam Goodrum and French straw marquetry artisan Arthur Seigneur. They met after Seigneur moved to the city, bringing with him skills in straw marquetry honed in Paris, where he had worked with Lison de Caunes, a contemporary champion of this near-obsolete art form. With Goodrum astonished by the quality of the work, and Seigneur ambitious to push the bounds of his medium, the pair began to collaborate, inaugurating their official partnership with Bloom (2018), a sumptuous blue, purple and pink cabinet now in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria. This latest series of objects took eighteen months to complete, first going on show a year ago at Tolarno Gallery in Sydney. It has just been awarded the prize for best collection in 2021’s Créateurs Design Awards.
The collection’s title, Exquisite Corpse, refers to the French parlour game, ‘Cadavre Exquis’, invented by the Surrealists in 1925, where one player sketches a body part or other image on a piece of paper, before folding the paper over their drawing and passing it on to the next player, who adds their contribution and so on. The completed figures, often wildly mismatched, confidently enforce their own bizarre logic. Goodrum and Seigneur see parallels with their own creative processes, where decisions about forms, patterns and colours are batted to and fro, producing a convincing hybrid of sparely designed contemporary furniture and Ancien Régime decadence.
Exquisite Corpse is an exercise in extreme craftsmanship. Seigneur sources the rye straw from Burgundy and then hand-dyes it. One of his recent triumphs is the discovery of a delicate ivory dye, which brings added lightness and movement to the patterns. The rolled stems are then flattened and spliced before being applied to the body of the piece. In a break with tradition, Adam and Arthur apply the stems to the entire body of the work, not just the facade. The peak of what Goodrum refers to as their shared lunatic rigour, is this ‘Talleo’ tallboy, iridescent like a peacock in over 14,000 individual, hand-dyed strands of straw.