After JF: Frippary for the Soul




After JF: Frippery for the Soul is an ongoing series of works on cardboard and fabrics which pay homage to the designer Josef Frank.

Born in Vienna in 1885 Josef Frank emigrated to Sweden in 1933 to avoid Nazi persecution. Originally practicing as an architect, Frank became the leading textile and furnishings designer for the Stockholm design company Svenskt Tenn.

Frank was deeply disquieted by prevalent ideas of radical Modernism which he felt had been hijacked by extremists who wanted to limit and define the movement by their own narrow terms of simplicity, purity and objectivity. In his essay Frippery for the Soul and Frippery as a Problem he argued that these utopian tenets of stern functionality simply did not respond to most people’s psychological needs.

He felt that design should be driven by comfort, and that his designs might provide a sense of joyousness against the stresses of everyday life. Although influenced by the British Arts and Crafts movement, he questioned the fetishisation of crafts-led tradition as well as the homogenising tendencies of the machine-made, saying: “One can use everything that can be used” meaning that one should take from whatever is available both historically and technologically – later to be a key idea of Postmodernism.

This series of works tips its hat to Frank’s exuberant aesthetic and takes courage from his insistence upon artistic and intellectual freedom from the mores of the day.

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