For Melbourne Design Week 2018, Studio Chen Lu investigates the notion of design, and explores alternate outcomes of the design process in a new series of work titled, Design Research Divison (DRD). DRD-01 ‘Nothing’, proposes the idea of design as a medium for reflection and meditation. It engages the viewers’ gaze and movement to explore an ‘absence’ of designed objects.

Sophie Gannon Gallery will be presenting DRD-01 in an empty suburban home. Vacant and uninhabited, three original rooms in the house will be transformed into installations for visitors to explore. This series of work is installed in a familiar domestic context, where visitors are invited to explore these minimalist spaces, where excess design falls away and leaves room for exploration and interaction. It creates a dialogue between the objects shown in the main gallery and the ‘non-objects’ installed in the offsite exhibition.



FLAT FORM 01 | Reflection Pool

By adopting the pattern from ‘composition notebooks’, it empties the composition in the traditional sense of image making. These printed works question the formality of a painted canvas, they are presented not as printed images, rather a series of ‘flat forms’ , that open and cut into a volume of space. They create a ‘void’ and render ‘emptiness’ resulting in spatial concepts that demonstrate design’s potential to be devoid of commercial constraints.




Extrapolating from Malevich’s avowedly anti-representational black square* in DRD-01 NOTHING, Studio Chen Lu explores the potential for meditative experiences with designed forms empty of obvious functions. At first appearing decorative and ornamental, the interaction between the visitors and the movement of the mobile creates a visual rhythm to be observed.

* ‘Black Square’, 1913. by Russian Suprematist painter Kasmir Malevich, is often taken as a departure point for abstract painting and twentieth century modernism.



FLAT FORM 03 | FLAT FORM 04 | UNTITLED Prints | Tokonoma

An existing alcove within the room is transformed into a Tokonoma* (a re-occuring theme in Studio Chen Lu’s works). Empty volume is ‘activated’ through a mirrored surface and the display of FLAT FORM 02. The works revisit motifs often found in Zen paintings, it engages the viewer as they look into its ‘emptiness’, momentarily confronted by their own mental and physical selves as a conscious state becomes more apparent.

* A Tokonoma is an alcove in Japanese interiors, use for aesthetic appreciation and spiritual contemplation. Often there is a scroll hanging, accompanied by Ikibana (flower arrangement), meant to evoke thoughts about spiritual awakening.


Photography by: Marcel Aucar