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Fernando Mendes: From Sketch to Varnish

Exhibit at Espasso New York
May 16 through June 27, 2024
Monday through Thursday 10am - 6pm, Friday by appointment

“Fernando Mendes: From Sketch to Varnish” formally introduces the architect, designer and woodworker to the international contemporary design market as an established and successful Brazilian creator. Commemorating 20 years of his design career, the exhibition focuses on his careful process, and the designer’s journey, quite literally from the first lines of a sketch to the final coats of varnish.

His work details the creative process, highlighting the inseparable link between imagining and making. Through traditional carpentry techniques and creativity, he designs pieces that explore connections, binding aesthetics and comfort. He challenges the limits of craftsmanship in a manual process that combines the excellence of a master carpenter with the meticulous persistence of a designer.

Mendes uses hand tools and artisanal techniques in the production of furniture and objects designed by himself and the Brazilian furniture master Sergio Rodrigues, with whom he worked closely for over thirty years. Notable in Mendes’ work is the intriguing minimalism, still full of complexity that captivates even the unversed in the universe of traditional carpentry. Casual and flirtatious, each piece is an invitation to be experienced and felt – existing in the trivial beauty of everyday life: contemplating natural landscapes, sitting around the dinner table, cozying up in the living room, or toasting at the bar.

Fernando invites elements and memories from his past into today’s creations. His pieces are named after influential, loving and important figures in his life. With names like Luiza, Duda, Pedro, Valente and Gilda, the collection honors friends and neighbors of his workshop, located in Vale das Videiras, in the mountains surrounding Rio de Janeiro.

The subtleties that Fernando translates into physical form, materialize with his repertoire of designs. These are just a few of the details that Fernando translates and materializes with his repertoire.

In addition to the furniture and functional objects on display, a short film shot in the designer’s workshop in Vale das Videiras tells the story and context for these creations. It captures the various stages in the production process, the use of hand tools, and sophisticated joinery techniques that Fernando incorporates in his artisanal design.

Fernando Mendes is a contemporary creator who uses wood as his primary medium. His intricate work in wooden furniture shows an acute sensitivity for the rich Brazilian craft tradition. It is this comprehension combined with the nobility of the material, that creates space to further refine this craft that has been developed in Brazil for centuries, and shape repertoires of uses and solutions in interior spaces.

Mendes’ material choice demonstrates ingenious solutions for cuts, joints, surface treatments, machining, and hand finishing — these elements combined produce treasured furniture items, with simple solutions that ensure a healthy balance between custom hand-crafted objects and those produced in series.

His authorial personality was shaped by a close experience with one of the greatest Brazilian designers, Sergio Rodrigues, with whom he lived and worked for over thirty years. The practice of re-editing various designs of the furniture master, recovering original designs, and streamlining their manufacturing processes, provided Mendes with a sensibility for interior design and a deep knowledge of structural architecture, one of Sergio Rodrigues' great lessons for Brazilian material culture. It is precisely this intelligence that we notice in his designs.

The spaces created by the composition of these pieces are enriched with countless possibilities of configuration and sophistication, not to mention all their contemporary Brazilian flair.

— Afonso Luz

Information about the pieces: [PDF]

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