Lighting by Barlas Baylar

Looking back to shape the future

The anthem of modern design in upscale furniture found in celebrity mansions and high-profile residences of late is one grounded in direct experience, comprising a lifestyle all its own, and an aesthetic embrace of the without from the within; not mere aspiration towards personal statement or expression, these works are simultaneously solemn and spontaneous, planned by man and also crafted by nature.  Only in this way does the utilitarian ethos reveal itself despite the strictest sanctions against schools of thought and their theories.  Only in this way does the subtlety of materials appear as frivolities to eyes and sensibilities unlearned, such subtlety as would imbue the noblest elegance – which is to say, the most pregnant of silences – to work honestly crafted, without thought of accolade or recompense.

And only in such a way comes the reaction, or, even, the comeback, when traditional skills had been shunned and modernity is identified with the machine – a comeback of the ancient, almost-stoic belief that being is doing and no theory of design and no “movement” in the arts exist.  For such terms belong to metacognition and not to the world of action, work.  And thus does truly spontaneous furniture, like calligraphy, arise of its own materials, not simply assembled of them.  Thus this art, impossible to teach but necessary to learn.

An ironic word, “art,” proving at once the very artifice of using nature to suggest nature.  But even as the most skillful acting can demonstrate truths unattainable otherwise, so too might artists and artisans similarly reveal nature herself within the forms of man, not heeding the sophist’s objections.  Besides, civilization must be furnished.  Yet this return to tradition in contemporary design has found itself welcome in the most modern of settings, sleek where nature had been thick, minimal where nature had expanded.  And so the modern furniture maker such as Barlas Baylar, balancing contemporary tastes with the ancient handicrafts of village masters simply plying their trade.

A job well-done was the craft of these ancients, in a world far removed from art criticism and revolving fashions.  It was one of visions free from the ossification of theory.  Intimately recognizing themselves a part of nature, no distinction was made between nature’s discards and nature herself.  In our evermore crowded age where digital communications make veritable housemates of neighbors and invite the government into our very beds, this art is a reminder and a triumph of the human spirit.  As George Nakashima wrote, “it might even be a question of regaining one's own soul when desire and megalomania are rampant – the beauty of simple things.”