UK designer Tom Price’s solo exhibition at Chapter 7 in Hangzhou was the culmination of a ten week invitation to China to create new works for the gallery’s opening show. The gallery provided accommodation, assistant and an impressive studio space with all the necessary equipment and materials.
One body of work Tom designed is entitled Thinker Tables and is produced from ‘black, white and grey polypropylene tubes that have been fused together, and then melted at one end to create a smooth flat tabletop. The tubes are arranged in such a way that, when viewed from a distance, they form three-dimensional pixels of a two-dimensional image.’
‘In this case the images are the faces of the Greek philosopher, Socrates and the Chinese philosopher, Confucius (or Kongzi). They were chosen by Chapter 7 to reflect the cross-cultural philosophy of the gallery.’
‘A convex mirror, placed high on the gallery wall enabled the viewer to see the tables from a height and distance that most effectively reveals the images on the tables. Seen from this position the images become almost photographic.’
PP Tree is an installation based on a traditional Chinese blossom tree, as remembered in paintings, with long overlapping branches. All in white, the trunk and branches are tubes and the blossoms are in fact made entirely from cut polypropylene pipe.
Tom explains: The sections of pipe were arranged on a large sheet of glass, which was then placed on the bed of a large platen press and heated to about 230 °C. This causes the pipes to melt slightly on one end and fuse together, forming a semi-rigid screen. The screens were then layered and attached to each other to create the blossom effect of the tree. The trunk and branches were made from longer lengths of polypropylene pipe that has been twisted and bent into shape.
Tom describes how the projects were made. ‘A significant portion of the work was carried out in an enormous wood-processing factory on the outskirts of Hangzhou. It was the only place that offered a large heated metal bed needed to partially melt plastic pipe to form smooth flat surfaces.
The machine, normally used to bond melamine to wooden boards, is heated to about 230°C, which, when combined with the 40° mid-summer heat outside, created an ambient indoor temperature of around 50°C. Fine for Saunas and Bikram Yoga but pretty challenging conditions for furniture making.’
The exhibition ran from September to December 2009 and included nine chairs, two tables, two lighting pieces and a tree installation.