Maarten Baas – The bad boy of design

A few days ago I happened to be in Den Bosch on a Sunday afternoon and decided on the spur of the moment to pop into the city’s museum for modern art, the SM’s. And what a stroke of luck it turned out to be because showing at the moment, under the title Making Things Personal , are examples of the work of Maarten Baas .

Baas studied at the Design Academy in Eindhoven where he graduated in 2002. In the last few years he’s become increasingly well known for his off-beat solutions for everyday furniture such as chairs, cupboards, clocks and dressers. His irreverent, often humorous approach has won him the nickname ‘the bad boy of design’.

His first claim to fame was the ‘Smoke’ series, where he set fire to old tables and chairs before coating them in an epoxy resin. Since then he’s created a sensation in the world of art and design with his ‘intentionally imperfect’ hand-made products. A good example being the ‘Clay’ series, which are unique primary-coloured items of furniture – such as tables, chairs and ventilators – made of a synthetic clay composite over metal skeletons.

Clocks are also a theme where Baas provides an interesting twist. Instead of the neutral mechanical or digital process we’re used to, he’s created films of people physically ‘changing’ time by visually moving the hands of the clock. One example is achieved by a couple continually moving driftwood on a beach, while in another an enclosed figure pens in the time on the clock-face only to erase it with a damp cloth a few moments later.
Baas has also created a service called ‘Haphazard Harmony’ which you could easily imagine being used at the Mad-hatters tea party. Most of the individual pieces seem to be slightly off kilter and appear to be on the point of becoming animated, just like in Disney’s ‘Alice’ cartoon.
In my last example Baas has been inspired by the standard, stackable plastic chair – one of which you may well have in your own garden shed – which has now, under his supervision, been recreated in elm wood by Chinese furniture makers.
 Well worth a visit. If you’re lucky you might even be treated to a guided tour, as I was, by the new director himself, René Pingen.
 SM’s – Stedelijk Museum ’s-Hertogenbosch
Showing until Sunday 23rd May 2010.

by Geoff Naylor

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