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'Nordic Day - Nordic Design in Everyday Life' Exhibition

A view of the “Perfect Library” section

The Nordic Day ― Nordic Design in Everyday Life exhibition, organized by the Korea Foundation, offered a significant opportunity for North European designers to present their interpretations of “everyday life” in their region through a unique variety of art and craft works. For example, the Swedish illustrator Maja Sten, who visited Korea as a representative of the exhibition contributors, introduced typical design elements inspired by the fairy tales of Scandinavia.

The Nordic Day – Nordic Design in Everyday Life exhibition was held from March 19 to May 5 at the Korea Foundation Cultural Center Gallery. Featuring the works of 10 contemporary designers, fine artists, and craft artists from Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark, the exhibition emphasized the familiar aspects of everyday life. The exhibits were arranged in four sections of “Inhabit,” “Naturally!,” “Community Center,” and “Perfect Library” in ways that enabled visitors to experience and view up-close the creativity of Nordic design, while moving through the mutually connected spaces. Furniture and lighting items, exhibited in the setting of a typical home interior, provided a pleasant insight into the northern European lifestyle.
Danish-style furniture, including examples of a desk, chair, bookcase, and table, all with slim legs and thin tops, represent aspects that take into account the relatively compact living spaces in most houses of the Nordic region. Also, residents of Scandinavia, spending long hours indoors with limited sunlight during winter, prefer incandescent lighting, which is closer to natural illumination, over fluorescent lighting. They use ambient light from several lamps, in addition to ceiling light fixtures hanging low above tables, to assure sufficient lighting for indoor activities, like reading.

Rather than displaying simple future pieces and stylish daily articles reflecting the latest design trends in northern Europe, the exhibition sought to present the visual arts integrated into everyday life. Hong Bo-ra, the exhibition curator, explained: “We tried to emphasize how design is not simply a decorative element, but a culture that permeates our everyday life. I hope the visitors would try to understand the culture of northern Europeans, which is melded into their daily lives, rather than the objects on display themselves.” She added that the exhibition was also intended to show how the artists have endeavored to express such themes as respect for nature and harmony with the environment.

Design as Everyday Culture

The “Inhabit” section introduced elements of interior spaces; Eva Steen Christensen presented a work composed of carpet and wallpaper cut into floral shapes. The “Naturally!” section shed light on the quest for a harmonious coexistence between nature and mankind through Anu Tuominen’s photographs and objets d’art woven with used socks and gloves, and glass designer Oiva Toikka’s exquisite blown-glass wares in a series titled “Birds.”

The “Community Center” section highlighted the novel animation works by Lars Arrhenius, which depict a 24-hour cycle of everyday life of urban residents; and “Tower Man,” a large-scale installation work by Randi & Katrine, which explores the relationships between buildings and human beings, and human bodies and sculptures.

Other notable exhibits included Danish artist Nina Saunders’ sculpture of a chair and a sofa merged together in an all-new configuration, and Korean designer Mars Hwasung’s lighting objects with baseball caps and fancy broad-brimmed hats converted into lamp shades. In the “Perfect Library” section, visitors could enjoy contemporary Scandinavian music, including lyrical jazz, on iPad and MP3 devices, while browsing through a selection of fairy tales and design books offering creative inspiration and other visual materials.

Birds by Oiva Toikka image, Hat Lamp & Cap Lamp by Mars Hwasung image, Tower Man by Randi & Katrine image, Illustrations by Maja Sten image

Efforts to Expand the Realm of Visual Art

Maja Sten imgae Maja Sten, a freelance illustrator and designer, visited Korea on behalf of the artists who contributed their works to the exhibition. She met with the exhibition audience in “Talk with the Artist” to explain the latest design trends in Nordic countries. Sten conducts active design projects for magazines and newspapers, and creates vibrant patterns for packaging materials and wallpaper. Her wallpaper works on display were characterized by dramatic adaptation of Viking-inspired motifs and a variety of animals, which she described as “my other ego.”

Sten explained her works combine the Swedish influences that emphasize technique and function, and her original ideas developed during her studies in the U.K. She also said her works are the “process and outcome of collecting things through a filter.” During a process of gathering information and selecting materials, she said, she gains inspiration for her works. She creates her filter from an aggregation of her memories of things that impressed her in the past, their origins, time, and character, through which she views the world.

Maja Sten explains her works during a special lecture and dialogue with visitors at the “Nordic Day – Nordic Design in Everyday Life” exhibition.In particular, Sten shows a strong preference for the use of animal images in her works. I looked at You, one of her works which attracted keen attention from exhibition visitors, showed how she integrates animal figures into her design patterns. Like many other artists in the Nordic region, she gets inspiration from famous classical novels and fairy tales. In this way, she intends to continue to create illustrations combining the region’s design culture with the everyday life of its people.

Text by Yang In-sil
Photographs by Park Jung-ro

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