During Milan Design Week 2019, renowned artist Matthew Day Jackson will present a highly distinctive collection of furniture, in collaboration with Finnish contemporary design company Made by Choice and the original inventors of high-pressure laminate, Formica Group.
The collection, titled Kolho, after the Finnish town that first inspired him, will comprise a series of dining tables and chairs juxtaposed with a series of exquisite flower paintings, in conjunction with Hauser and Wirth. These paintings evoke Jan Breughel the Elder and Younger’s genre-defining floral works from the 16th and 17th centuries and provide a backdrop and foundation for the viewer to engage with the deeper meanings of the Kolho collection.
Kolho was born from a series of coincidences and unplanned meetings that occurred when Jackson visited Finland in 2018 in preparation for an upcoming show at the Serlachius Museum (opening May 2019). His fascination with the way things accrue and transform themselves through narratives and associations was fired when he heard about Kolho, a town near the Serlachius Museum and home to several events which connect closely to Jackson’s work.
Jackson learned that Kolho was the birthplace of James Vehko (aka Jalmari Vehkomäki), an emigrant to the USA where he became the designer of the first Ford Motor Company all-metal automobile body, after the Model A, which figures solidly in Jackson’s past work. Vehko’s son, also from Kolho, became the head of Chrysler’s Space division. Lastly, Kolho is also home to a Formica Group manufacturing plant. For Jackson, Formica® laminate is a material central to his work for nearly two decades due to its wide range of colours, textures and uses.
All these factors led Matthew to design a custom laminate texture. Working with Formica Group, they developed bespoke steel press plates to create a laminate that is a scaled representation of the moon, two surfaces he connects through their physical attributes:
Serendipity prevailed yet further when Jackson met Niclas Ahlstrom, a relative of Maire Gullichsen (Ahlström) founder of Artek with Alvar Aalto. His family company Ahlstrom (pulp and paper www.ahlstrom.com) also owned the Iittala and Karhula glass factories giving him a remarkable design pedigree. Now with his own contemporary furniture company, Ahlstrom agreed that he and Jackson should create a collection of furniture that would also utilise the Formica® laminate design Jackson developed from the nearby plant – and so Kolho was born. By the end of 2018, there were prototypes sculpted by Jackson while in residence in Somerset with Hauser and Wirth Gallery. Currently, these are on display within Jackson’s exhibition “Pathetic Fallacy” at Hauser and Wirth in Somerset, his sixth solo exhibition with the gallery since 2010.
“We went to the moon to prove we could get there first rather than to learn about it. We went to own the moon and to leave a trace of our being there. We made it a reflective surface to show us only ourselves.”