Nordic influence through design

Lars Dressler and Jason Dressler, Brothers Dressler, Branches Chandelier, 2009, white oak. | Photo courtesy of Brothers Dressler

Curators Rachel Gotlieb and Michael Prokopow look to reveal the connection between Scandinavian and Canadian design in their upcoming exhibit, True Nordic, running Oct. 28, 2017–Jan. 28, 2018 at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

True Nordic considers Scandinavian social and design principles and how the aesthetics of the region influenced the development of industrial design and artisanal crafting in Canada. The exhibit will display a wide range of mediums from multiple designers including NielsBendtsen, Bocci, Karen Bulow, Kjeld and Erica Deichmann, Thor Hansen, Andrew Jones, Janis Kravis, molo, Carl Poul Petersen, Rudolph Renzius and Marion Smith.

“What is great about the exhibition is that it is interdisciplinary, meaning visitors will get to see work by artisans trained in wood, glass, clay, metal and textiles,” says Gotlieb.

Scandinavian design principles

The vast popularity of Danish Modern and Scandinavian design from the 1950s, ‘60s and onward turned on the ideas of simpler and more progressive modes of living. Prokopow says that while in many parts of the world Scandinavian modern design is appreciated for its style, in Canada there is a deeper appreciation for the use of materials that can be found in a similar climate and topography.

“Canadian designers who adopted and adapted Scandinavian and Nordic aesthetic influences did so because the principles inherent in objects from the Nordic – simplicity, integrity, calm and natural palettes, thoughtful use of materials – resonated given the similarities of natural conditions between Canada and the Nordic,” says Prokopow.

Lotte Bostlund, Bostlund Industries Lamp, c. 1964, ceramic with paint, spun nylon. | Photo by Toni Hafkenscheid

Seat of inspiration

Gotlieb and Prokopow are long-time friends and as curators and historians in the field have both shared a passion for Canadian craft and design. Each has served as curator of the Design Exchange, Canada’s design museum in Toronto. They often question the role objects play in affirming and shaping identity, whether it be personal or national.

“The idea of the exhibition was a consequence of a conversation we had at Studio North – an installation at the Interior Design show in Toronto curated by Rachel – about a Canadian chair that looked as though it was made in Denmark. In talking about the chair and about the larger question of aesthetic influence, we decided to look more carefully into the question of what role Scandinavian and Nordic design and craft culture played in Canada within the historic and contemporary frame,” says Prokopow.

Canadian talent, Scandinavian design

Even though the showcase features Scandinavian design principles, True Nordic aims to highlight Canadian artists. The exhibition displays works by Nordic émigrés to Canada or artists who were trained in that part of the world, and also by designers who adopted the principles, stylistic emphasis and material practices of the region.

“We wanted to bring attention to the critical and creative work by Canadian designers and makers that demonstrated an awareness of the Scandinavian aesthetic culture,” says Prokopow.

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