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In the Classics of Mountains and Seas, a book believed to be a geological documentation of a world known to man 2,300 years ago, descriptions of fantastical lifeforms with unusual appearances and magical powers abound. For the longest time, the stories were regarded as pure myth and beyond reason. Over time, as the natural world was scientifically explored, nature proved to be more incredible than myth could describe. What once was considered fantastical now seems more real than ever before.

In a new era of understanding, the ancient cultures of the east are revisiting the relationship between man and nature. While the industrial revolution gave us the power to reshape nature, Eastern philosophy faded into the shadow of a world of concrete and steel. But today, we are at a turning point: by altering our attitudes towards nature and relocating the values of tradition, we find inspirations right where we left them.

Chinese craftspeople have long loved the subject of plant life. The fruits of their labor were exchanged between the east and west for centuries through innumerable encounters, with craft taking a leading role in formal experimentation. This exchange of ideas and material germinated into an enduring legacy of works. But a new dialogue through design and craft is still yet to come.

Aspects of Chinese aesthetics which favor the fantastical and the extravagant are finally making their way back to the contemporary visual conversation. The knowledge we have access to today has opened up a much more colorful world of once unknown or unfamiliar forms and ideas. After 100 years of catching up with technological progress, we now have the material base to revisit some of the most evocative elements of traditional fine craft, such as lacquer, and expand its expressive capabilities.

Chinese Design Artist Naihan Li, brings forth a collection of contemporary design art objects which explore the motives of reimagining organic forms and transforming them into household objects of functionality and artistic expressivity. The series of works, created with traditional lacquer techniques, in combination with 3D printing and carbon fiber composition, serves as an exploration of stimulating traditional fine craft with up-to-date making techniques.

For Li, lacquer provides the perfect substance for her vision; it is one of the most sustainable and durable materials and can deliver a highly contrasting range of applications and expressions. This playful experimentation with style, history, and cutting-edge production is a process that Li has dedicated herself to for the past decade (as seen in such works as the Manga Lamp, the Peacock Chair, and the Mountain Sofas). For instance, Li’s scalar transfigurations of iconic, monumental buildings to furniture-size (“I Am a Monument” series), have their roots in the Asiatic miniaturization of grandiose forms.

Inspired by the tremendous amount of fascinating marvels at play in nature, we have created works for a mass-produced world. As if in a fantasy movie, or fairytale, mushrooms turn into stools, flowers turn into lights, bold flora replace the vase that holds flowers. Making methods of new and old, and functionalities consolidated in human livelihood, reimagine humanity in direct dialogue with nature.

The collection, consisting of chairs, mirrors, lighting pieces, tableware, and so on, moves beyond the purely decorative and bears contemporary functionality while displaying an extravagance of the iconic shapes and colors celebrated in today’s visual domain. This collection serves as a bridge between ancient and contemporary culture, providing the world with a new perspective on Asian creativity.


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