Eileen Gray at V&A January 2017

To wander around the 20th Century galleries at the V&A is always a joy – many of the objects manage to look both fresh and yet quite decadant. The work of Eileen Gray on show here manages to look both ! The black laquered screen has silver leaf panels that are surprisingly loosely handled and rough looking, inferring a kind of wabi-sabi approach which probably arose from years of association with lacquer master and collaborator Seizo Sugawara. There is a luxuriant and indulgent quality to some of her work that I don’t find very appealing, but the more pared down designs, like the armchair on display, where the materials are allowed to ‘shine’ are much more exciting. Syrie Maugham’s mirror screen is an intriguing construction of spotted mirrors with multiple bevels,  endlessly reflecting the gallery space and offering a fleeting glimpse at a kind of Hollywood glamour in the cold winter light.

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