Above: Simone Brewster
On 29th June 2023, NOW Gallery on London’s Greenwich Peninsula will present its 2023 Design Commission, The Shape of Things, by one of the leading voices in contemporary design Simone Brewster.
Open to the public between 29 June – 24 September, The Shape of Things is an exploration of the power of objects to communicate societal expectations of beauty, representation, and the talismanic qualities of objects that we use to empower ourselves. The exhibition explores the concept of “intimate architecture” – the affect that texture and three dimensional form have on memory and emotion. The Shape of Things is an emotive display of objects that gain significant personal meaning from the tension and interaction between itself and its audience.
The exhibition presents a diverse range of works from furniture to painting, jewellery and sculpture that investigate the hidden linguistics behind design that are inherently entwined with societal norms and ideas of race, gender, equality and more. The Shape of Things encourages the viewers to reconsider their perception of everyday objects and the way we interact with them. Celebrating Brewster’s multidisciplinary approach to design and architecture, the boldly-coloured and geometric design envelops the viewers in an immersive display of colour and form. The viewers are also invited to use stamps designed by Brewster to create new designs inspired by her strong visual language.
As part of the African Diaspora, Brewster’s work marries Western and African visual languages, bridging the gap between these two histories, and the material shapes and forms that are imbued with cultural history and tradition. These dialogues of heritage, memory, race, gender, tradition and form are embodied in some of the key centrepieces of the exhibition. As a part of the display, Brewster will present a chaise lounge titled Negress which embodies a Modernist perspective on a deconstructed view of the Black female body, referencing and questioning the Primitivist and Cubist interpretation of the subject. The piece was acquired by the Smithsonian in 2022 and invites the viewer to re-examine their ways of interacting with the uncanny form of the chaise lounge.
In addition to this, Brewster will showcase a series of vessels, titled Tropical Noire, that reference the totemic statues and traditional Greek vessels, as well as Sub Saharan African sculpture and colonial artefacts. The collection clearly displays Brewster’s signature bold style of both ethnic and architectural elements which are also echoed across her paintings, drawings and jewellery showcased as a part of the exhibition.
Brewster will also present a series of brand new comb sculptures inspired by African hairstyles that are wearable and celebrate the designer’s heritage. The quietly political designs raise significant issues regarding race, gender and visibility in design and architecture spaces while celebrating Black British design and African heritage.
Brewster’s work has been exhibited at the British Embassy during the London 2012 Olympic Games as an example of British Design Talent, The Royal College of Art 175 Year Anniversary Exhibition, Collect at the Saatchi Gallery, amongst many other domestic and international exhibitions.
Simone Brewster said: “I am so excited to have the opportunity to present my work at the Summer Design Exhibition. NOW Gallery is the perfect space to show the diversity of my work across many different media. While my paintings have featured in Royal Academy, furniture at the Museum of London and Jewellery at Collect, this is the first time that they are being shown together. This is a wonderful opportunity to illustrate how the themes present in my work – race, womanhood, function, beauty – span the different media in which I work, while taking on many different forms, from the architectural nature of Tropical Noir, to the fluid strokes of my painting.”
NOW Gallery curator Jemima Burrill said: “There are so many elements of Simone Brewster’s work that make her perfect for our Summer Design exhibition. Her playful and thoughtful use of so many media. From her joyous painting to her complex objects, all examine her design world of carefully considered history, identity, social construct, and feminist discourse. Her interest in the essence of shapes and their place in design shines through in this exhibition and this element will be an interactive part of the exhibition. With Simone’s rich and profound design philosophy and her architectural understanding, she will be using NOW Gallery as a vitrine to portray a treasure trove of design and social issues.”
Since 2014, NOW Gallery in Greenwich Peninsula has established itself as London’s go-to destination for discovering new talent and showcasing cutting-edge installations by some of the most exciting names in art, design and fashion including Yinka Ilori, Manjit Thapp, Joy Yamusangie, Nicholas Daley, Mowalola, Phoebe English, Matty Bovan and Molly Goddard.