Curator Richard Hsu

It’s been an interesting and wonderful challenge to curate a number of Asian creatives for Kvadrat’s Divina fabric this year. We contributed to this year’s exhibition with two designers from two very different countries and cities – Shanghai and Bangkok.

To paint a picture, in recent years we’ve seen Asian cities embracing the design economy and cultural industries, and have seen development and acceleration in innovation. Asia, generally speaking, is extremely pragmatic and bottom-line focused. It’s taking a long time for the ‘old school’ to accept and embrace the younger creative generation.

China has spent decades propelling itself forward, first focusing on land and field development, then manufacturing, followed by city planning and urban construction on a vast scale. Now, China’s creative coming of age is upon us – the time for people, the creative generation, and cultural and innovative thinking. The recent emergence of many truly deep and insightful talents has captured our attention. Many Chinese artists have not travelled abroad, and while some designers’ and creators’ works are based on past traditions, others are drawing their inspiration from a multitude of influences that now shape their daily lives.

We look forward to continuing to connect Kvadrat to different creative disciplines and to the many forms and styles of Asian cities.

The cornerstone of Jonas Merian’s recent work has been the demolition of Shanghai’s old city buildings. He recycles, he upcycles, and he modernises, and, upon the memories of a China past, he bestows a new lease of life for a more modern age. Taking his usual approach to his own works as his starting point, I commissioned him to create something that would take Divina, a Kvadrat fabric that has stood the test of time, and merge it with the disappearing history of Shanghai to create a new piece of furniture that was also an art form.

Merian possesses a rare talent. He starts with a vision and philosophy, and then seeks out and plucks the components that fit these from the construction sites and junkyards of Shanghai. He picks up the broken wood and twisted metal and he brings all of it back to his workshop so he can turn his vision into art pieces.

I spent time in his studio, witnessing how Merian handcrafted every piece of reclaimed wood into the stand and individual branches of what became a fan. He reframed the metal into a support system so it could bear weight. His hands meticulously stitched every piece of fabric. The colours of the two sides of the fan were carefully chosen to represent two classical art cultures – one Eastern, one Western.

Khun Duangrit Bunnang is a well-respected architect and designer in Thailand. Trained both in Bangkok and London, for the past 20 years he has been designing gorgeous spas, hotels, and residences, and building design, art, and exhibition centres. Many of his works focus on the quality and enjoyment of life. Simplicity and minimalism have been a hallmark of his style, consistent throughout his career.

His immediate reaction to the commission was to create a poetic art piece about leisure, a piece that encapsulated the every day action of sitting.

The result was the Fortune Chair: an orange Divina fabric covering stretched between a metal frame, inspired by the ubiquitous fortune cookie. Capturing the essence of the cookie’s folds – how the cookie is an envelope of air and creates a space within – the Fortune Chair is both a comfortable and playful seat to rock in and a piece of art to appreciate.