The first thing that comes up when you type the name Eileen Gray into a Google search engine is a Royal Academy blog post, 'an architect and designer you should know', followed by an article from The Guardian, 'A €22m chair? Eileen Gray, the design genius who scared the pants off Corbusier' - which, when you come to think of it, tells you everything you need to know about the trailblazing designer. Although arguably not a household name, Gray's designs most certainly are, with her ClassiCon Bibendum Armchair easily rivalling Marcel Breuer's Chrome Lounge Chair and her unfaltering belief in modernism that's set the precedent for today's design standards and innovation.
To celebrate her rich contribution to the arts and crafts movement and a life-time wholly dedicated to the art of design, Irish fashion designer and maker Richard Malone has decided to lend his talents to curating the exhibition, Making and Momentum, In Conversation with Eileen Gray. Debuting this summer, the soon-to-be travelling exhibition will see Gray's seminal modernist villa, E-1027 in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France, as the starting point before travelling to Dublin's National Gallery in Collins Barracks (20th August 2021), and eventually both Gray and Malone's hometown of Wexford (Spring 2022).
Speaking of the contemporary need for such an exhibition, Malone spoke about Gray's legacy in reference to the crafts people of today, touching upon the much-needed essence of craftsmanship and why it's integral to society.
'Eileen Gray's work and legacy represent a bold, undefinable personal language and methodology that transcends time and trend. Her cross-disciplinary approach placed equal importance on craft and fine art, radically blurring the boundaries between disciplines. Within her design language is both freedom and restraint, pure creativity and confident personal refinement, existing outside academic or historical reference. Her designs, and particularly her approach to making has influenced countless creatives. Making and Momentum: In Conversation with Eileen Gray, presents a selection of daring contemporary artists and makers whose work moves between forms and rigid definitions.'
Gray, who's considered one of the 20th-century greats when it comes to pioneering modernism (and rightly so), has informed the world we live in through her revolutionary designs - spanning a broad multidisciplinary practice. From the artists and designers to the architects and artisans that make up this generation, Gray's work is continued to be seen all around amongst the craftspeople of today. Acknowledging this, the exhibition hopes to create a cross-generational conversation around the importance and cultural contribution of craftsmanship alongside the public reopening of the artist's seminal villa.
Speaking of Gray's influence and lasting impact, long after her death in 1976, Malone said:
'Gray was always in the ether as I grew up, as a sort of artistic legend and daring queer undefinable female maker - who happened to come from the same rural county (Wexford) as me. Her story was often told to me by my grandmother, Nellie, as a kind of proof that anyone can become anything from anywhere, and in many ways her work and her person resonated with Nellie. I saw Gray's work before I could comprehend modernism, but it was the humanity, sensuality and functionality that always resonated with me, never the academia that her brilliant work accumulated through time. It's this insatiable creative spirit, this individual language and that specific place one goes to when making that emulates from her work. It feels connected to something ancient and spirited and human that is altogether modern - it is a sort of truth. Its very existence, its presence, has always encouraged me.'
Featuring work from a painter, rugmaker, textile artist, sculptor and designer, Making and Momentum will serve as a contemporary tribute to Eileen Gray through the work of artisans and makers Sara Flynn, Niamh O'Malley, Laura Gannon, Ceadogán, Mainie Jellett, Mourne Textiles and Richard Malone. Representing an award-winning selection of some of Ireland's most accomplished artists, the talents chosen all hold numerous awards and accolades, including a Royal Hibernian Academy commission, the Loewe Craft Prize, and The International Woolmark Award.
Too often referred to as 'a dying industry that needs to be revived', craftsmanship is integral to the future of the creative industries; talent, intricacy and attention to detail cannot and should not ever be replaced by the technological age. There's a love and thoughtfulness that comes with the handmade that no one can deny, technology and machinery should exist to support this rather than overcome it.