Artist Shao Fan is sculptor and painter, and freely experiments with various media. To the contemporary Chinese design industry however, the name Shao Fan is often immediately associated with his reconstructed, or rather, 'Deconstructed' chairs.
In the 'Chairs(?)' series (1996), Shao Fan sought to reinterpret a subject as mundane as furniture making. In the artist's mind, Ming furniture contains the essence of Chinese philosophy. By taking furniture in the Ming style apart, and combining it with contemporary materials and design, Shao Fan wanted to express the philosophical and cultural changes and contrasts that he felt faced China today.
Shao Fan's Deconstructive process involved joining the parts of chairs of contrasting styles and he enjoyed the irony in the method and outcome . His art was also a tongue-in-cheek commentary against the common practice of antique dealers who purchase modern reproductions and reconstruct them to pass off as the genuine article. While such reproduction furniture may look authentic, they are nonetheless inexpensive copies. Similarly, with humorous irony, the materials used in Shao Fan's chairs are not 'noble' woods such as huali or teak, but rather those used more commonly in furniture in the North of China, namely elm and catalpa.
'King', 'Kun', 'Moon' and 'Wei' are based on Shao Fan's humorous take on modern man's fascination with the logographic nature of Chinese characters. The chairs are modelled to be reminiscent of Chinese ideograms, and sometimes the chairs do end up resembling the logograms they were based on. The artist's manipulations to the objects call to mind Ezra Pound's Ideogrammic Method, injecting substance and three-dimensionality to illustrate a symbolic idea.
Shao's creations are known to bridge the division between fine art and applied art. While the design of his chairs are innovative, they are joined with traditional methods. The chairs may be regarded as sculpture or conceptual art, yet they sometimes remain functional as furniture. The ambiguous nature of the works present an interesting dynamic that continues to fascinate the artist and his audience.
The chairs have been acquired by the Museum by the generous gift of Ms Pearl Lam.
'King' chair by Shao Fan
The design for this chair has been based on a traditional round chair ('yuan yi'), which is usually associated with high status, reflected also by the position the chair takes in the household.
'Kun' chair by Shao Fan
The 1990s for China was a transitional period from the traditional to the modern; and also one marked by anxiety. This chair captures the tension between tradition and modernity, where the antique chair parts are counterbalanced with a new frame, meeting but never arriving at fusion, reflecting the contrasts between old lifestyles and new contexts.
'Wei' chair by Shao Fan
'Wei' is another chair that is created based on the logograph (Chinese character) which conveys the idea 'to protect' or 'to defend'. This chair is formed of parts from a dismantled 'guan mao' (Official's Hat) style chair (so called because of its resemblance to the shape of a scholars' headgear).
'Project No.1 of 2004' chair by Shao Fan
The playful design captures a moment in time and values that cannot be returned to; yet the 'exploding' chair parts are no longer static and immobile, but given a sense of movement and liberation in its new form.