Homes and gardens

Art in home furniture

Asad Firdosy’s out-of -the-box thinking made him break away from conventional geometrical forms. A look by M.A. Siraj

Most people who have seen Asad Firdosy’s furniture would say ‘wood is wax’ for the artist-carpenter from Nagpur. For two decades, Firdosy has been effortlessly integrating objects from nature with articles of use. The outcome has been stunning art pieces that serve both as artefacts as well as pieces of furniture.

Left to himself, he would like to describe himself as furniture-sculptor. Doubtlessly, he is one. Persuaded by his endless fascination for nature, this designer trained at the Mumbai’s J. J. School of Art has been churning out a breathtaking range of items of use from chair to teapoys to cupboards and dressing tables, each one different from the previous. Ever since he came out with a B. Arch degree from the Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology* in 1992, Firdosy was sure that he would be taking up nothing but his family’s ancestral business. But then his out-of -the-box thinking was urging him to break away from the conventional geometrical forms. And that is where his fertile imagination began to work wonders.

Chair Dominant

Inducting sculptural themes into functional and useable items is no small feat. He was a fan of the Indian teak that fulfilled all that a sculptor and designer looked for. Be it durability or elegant finish, Indian teak had all the characteristics that Firdosy desired. Chairs dominated his imagination and work for some years to come. “Chair design is extremely interesting. It is one piece of furniture that is always in contact with a human being, enveloping him from most sides. So the criteria included ergonomics, aesthetics and durability. I am particular about lumbar support, thigh support, arms rest, height, shoulder and neck support,” says Firdosy.

Rave reviews

The Ashoka tree inspired him to design “The Leaf Chair”. Dyed green, two leaves—one standing erect and forming backrest and another forming the seat—intersected to give shape to something he had cherished long to emulate the nature. Next to come was “The Fish Tail Chair”, outcome of an impetus to copy the tailfin of a fish for the armrest and footrest. By the time Asad could handcraft “The Asymmetric Chair” in 2008, rave reviews in top décor magazines had enabled him exhibit his craft in several cities across India and Germany.

A rude challenge to the conventional symmetry of chairs, the ‘Asymmetrical chair’ combined the colonial art with assembly line produced modern, straight line furniture. Its abstract nature personified the offbeat thought process. “Its unconventional design makes it close to my heart,” remarks Asad who exhibited his craft at an architecture exhibition in Bengaluru.

Art Nouveau

Legs of the ‘Flintstone Table’ and ‘Flintstone Chair’ remind one of horses. An amalgam of exotic woods of ebony, mahogany, white cedar and teak, the pieces display a free-flowing wavy pattern.

He explains that the Flintstone pieces (chair, table, settee etc.,) are allegorical of the primitive age and juxtaposition of modern-day design in the Stone Age setting and represent an attempt to revive one of the dying styles and movement, “The Art Nouveau”.

Bharatnatyam Chair

While seated at a Bharatnatyam show, a thought crossed his mind like a jolt of current: “Why not have a piece of furniture that would depict the beauty of the attire and the expressive poses of the dancer!” It did not take very long for the ‘Bharatnatyam” chair to emerge in solid wood and steel that combined delicate posture of the dance and ergonomics for human seating.

The image of two snakes intertwined in a dance of love led to creation of “Viper Chaise” for demi-mansion lounges. The stripes of the snake skin were derived by joining pieces of ebony and teak.

Banana Leaf Chair

A series of Banana Leaf Chairs and Tables were handcrafted in teak with carved Jaali (lattice) for the unconventionally high back rest. Even armrests were asymmetrical with one among them being a replica of a banana leaf. The tables in this series had (table) tops divided into two halves, one being a smoothened plain for functional use while the other half carved with scene of a banana orchard.

“Mi-cycle”

Amid the plethora of chairs, Firdosy designed and created a range of cupboards (Kabaat) under the “Second Innings” series.

It was an attempt to recreate period furniture transforming history into chic designs. “Mi-Cycle” was his tribute to the humble bicycle that is increasingly getting marginalised in the mad rush for automobiles.

Wrapped in wood, the two-wheeler is a style statement of an eco-friendly mode of transport used by ancestors of today’s generation.

Chinese Fan Palm

Asad believes that design is a concept which arises out of nothing. “Just a flash of thought and Lo! a creation is born out of nothing, just as the idea of ‘Ex nihilo’ which means ‘out of nothing’,” he remarks.

One such morning, when he was chatting with a friend, he noticed how passionately he peeled off a banana skin into four layers one by one, exposing the creamy fruit which he covetously gobbled in small bites.

The experience

Asad abruptly left for his studio, hurriedly penned down what he visualised in the flash of that moment. What came out of the experience was ‘The Banana Chair’. The drooping leaves of the Chinese fan palm got morphed into ‘Chinese Fan Palm Stool’ after another such experience.

One can find in Firdosy’s work modernity juxtaposed against antiquity, tradition in collision with contemporary and nature coalescing with ergonomics.

He sums up his work : “Yes, I mould furniture out of wood meant to be used. But it is also meant to be looked at and wondered.”

*It was then Visveshwaraiah Regional Engineering College (VREC).

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2020 9:42:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/homes-and-gardens/art-in-home-furniture/article19518099.ece

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