This is a stunning and magical and slightly odd exhibition.
To start with stunning and magical ….. the exhibition was first shown in Milan in the Spring and was designed and curated by the Danish-Italian partnership GamFratesi - Stine Gam and Enrico Fratesi. Fourteen works of craft by nineteen leading Danish designers and craftspeople were chosen including woven hangings, ceramics, furniture and interesting objects like an ‘umbrella’ but with a carpenter’s hand drill immediately above the traditional curved cane handle so that the piece can be rotated by the person carrying it. This is Umspiral by the fashion designer Henrik Vibskov and its covering, rather than being the conventional umbrella shape, has the form of a long spiral like an apple peeling or, probably more appropriate, it is reminiscent of one of the helicopter-like inventions drawn by Leonardo da Vinci.
The exhibition aims to move into the realm of conceptual art … an area where, using imagination - the mind part of the title - GamFratesi challenges and blurs our view of what we might assume to be art and what we define as craft.
The works stand on mirrors that cover the whole floor of the gallery and are contained or protected or isolated by large frameworks that are in black and are round in plan but gently bell-shaped in profile. Each element is a quarter sphere so when two are placed together they enclose the work completely and reflections in the mirrors of the floor complete the cage to form a sphere. Set on their side the open cages create a complete circle with the reflection in the floor like a cave.
I can see the symbolism here. The metal-framed dome is reminiscent of garden features called gazebos, common in England in the 18th and 19th centuries, but deriving from Italian and French designs. These gazebos are a feature in the garden that you look at from a distance and are a destination for a ride or walk but once you get there, not only do you admire the architecture of the gazebo, but, usually set on a high point, you also gaze out over and admire the landscape. So here in Mindcraft you are looking at the framework of the exhibition, looking at items carefully isolated within each but also looking out and across to other works.
The windows of the gallery are covered and as you enter you have to put on shoe covers to protect the mirror floor that you are walking on so … this is the odd part … it is a strangely detached World that you enter. Magical but odd. I spent a long time in the galleries waiting for people to leave so I could have the space to myself because that was when it seemed to be at it’s best. With other people in the gallery, the strange views of people reflected in the glass as you look down and their odd comments and so on were distracting. But, it was interesting to watch the reaction of the different visitors - some were absorbed, walking slowly and quietly as if in a church, and others gestured wildly and talked loudly breaking the atmosphere - admirable enthusiasm - but annoying.
Some of the works are not quite up to being isolated and being the focus of attention in this way but other pieces are brilliant.
A general theme for the exhibition was ‘in between’ which worked well with the works that were multiples emphasising both a shape and the spaces.
Point of View by Jakob Wagner is a bench that is formed out of thin vertical slices that are kept apart by transparent spacers and are coloured red on one side and a deep blue on the other so the colour ripples and changes as you move around - heightened by the mirror reflection in the floor and by the way, at certain angles, individual pieces, reflecting the colour of the opposite side of the next segment, take on a luminous intermediate colour.
Fontanella, a simple white cone-shaped vessel in porcelain with a green angled stripe by Claydies, the partnership of Tine Broksø and Karen Kjældgaard-Larsen, was set as a multiple and the reflections created amazing shapes so the harder you looked the more the division between actual ceramic and mirror image of ceramic dissolved and it became more and more elusive, taking on the form of a decorative sculpture.
In the same way, Open 1, 2 and 3 - large drawings by Louise Campbell in spidery and elegant red lines spaced along the wall seemed to dance with their reflections in the floor.
Labels are kept to a minimum, with just simple titles in black lettering on the floor, but there is an initial gallery with extensive information panels so it really is worth spending time reading about the works or there is a good web site with profiles of the artists and their work.
The exhibition continues at Designmuseum Danmark in Copenhagen until 31 January 2016.