ANYTHING BY BRUNO MUNARI
Outside of the classroom or the designer's studio, it isn't often that we devote ourselves to the study of shape. Plucking Bruno Munari's Square Circle Triangle off the shelf one day at Donlon Books mistaking it for a children's board book, it didn't take long to get lost in this extraordinary encyclopedia that mixes brief texts, graphics and photography to build a picture of the history and anthropology that surround those three most fundamental of forms.
In Design as Art, another of Munari's books and perhaps the most well known within the U.K., his description of the form and function of an orange presented as if it were an industrial product is playful, deft, and strangely soothing in its recounting of the ways said fruit is so perfectly right. Munari's writing is often like that: entertaining and eloquent, sometimes a bit snarky, full of good sense, almost always circling (pun intended) back to something innate in nature or humanity. It feels good to be reminded of design. To delve into Munari's world of shapes and faces, of natural forms, of cutlery and furniture and 'useless machines'. To be convinced that a balanced life is one that marries art to the everyday. Or to simply learn how to draw a tree.
THE SHAPE OF THINGS
Clocking the names of the film's lead characters, it comes as no surprise that Neil LaBute's 2003 film The Shape of Things is going to throw more than a little morality your way.
When nerdy boy (Adam) meets art-cool girl (Evelyn) at the gallery where he works, it doesn't take long for their meet cute to solidify into a full blown relationship. Adam is smitten with Evelyn – can't believe his luck - and she, happily, seems all-in for him too. Time passes and small changes to Adam's appearance (new hair, new clothes, a slimmer figure) are initially chalked up to love. Soon, a few bumps in the road but it all seems par for the course: your typical indie rom-com. The film's climax however takes a different turn, and whether you've seen it coming or not, both halves of its genre descriptors are called into question: there is very little romance or comedy left at the close of the final scene.
Over fifteen years later a different film might be made but its questions (however lightly skimmed) about art and responsibility, authenticity, and society's preoccupation with appearance, still hold merit.
ANISH KAPOOR AT PITZHANGER MANOR & GALLERY
Not quite the escapist country retreat that Sir John Soane intended when he designed and built it in the early 1800s - its then rural location a present-day eight minute walk from the nearest tube – Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery, newly restored and reopened, is now in every other important respect an accurate representation of the influential architect's vision.
With his original design visible for the first time in 175 years – the domed canopy ceilings, unbeatable paint schemes, and innovative use of mirrors and light to exaggerate space – it is not only this incredible feat but the reanimation of Soane's desire to inspire and enrich the wider community through art, architecture and design that is worthy of praise. A big part of that side of the project is the newly created contemporary art gallery, a beautiful light filled space that will play host to a rolling programme of artists, designers and architects selected for their ability to offer new perspectives on Soane's ideas and architecture. For its inaugural exhibition the gallery presents a series of sculptures by Anish Kapoor, his pieces echoing both the shape and perception-altering qualities of Soane's complex use of light and mirrors, allowing a natural, life-giving conversation between the two.
Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery is open Tuesday-Sunday (plus bank holidays). Anish Kapoor continues until 18 August 2019.