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The Twelve Chairs – A Long Story

February 19, 2018

The first month this year was filled with art (and other good stuff), yet I kept everything secret. I was painting and reading good books, making bracelets and driftwood sculptures and taking photographs, which means I wasn’t only busy, in fact I was getting somewhere (which is always very satisfying). So for anyone who is curious, lets have a look at what’s been happening in the messy studio.

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Believe it or not I was thinking a lot about chairs. Yes, chairs. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think much about furniture, yet sometimes an odd thought crosses my mind and the ball gets rolling… Here’s your BIG opportunity to see how my mind works. Read on.

At first I decided to make some monotypes or monoprints of beautiful and comfortable old chairs. You know the ones that are quite big, really snug and are covered in pretty fabric? I did some research, drew a few sketches and came up with these:

I kept them pretty simple (sometimes less is more, right?) – I didn’t concentrate on the fabric, but tried to add a few details.

And then… I remembered The Twelve Chairs. Have you heard of them? Or maybe you’ve even seen the film based on this story? The Twelve Chairs is a classic satirical novel by the Odessan Soviet authors Ilf and Petrov, released in 1928. It’s brilliant! If you don’t know it, here’s the plot in short:

In the Soviet Union in 1927, a former Marshal of Nobility, Ippolit Matveyevich “Kisa” Vorobyaninov, works as the registrar of marriages and deaths in a sleepy provincial town. His mother-in-law reveals on her deathbed that her family jewelry was hidden from the Bolsheviks in one of the twelve chairs from the family’s dining room set. Those chairs, along with all other personal property, were taken away by the Communists after the Russian Revolution. Vorobyaninov wants to find the treasure. The “smooth operator” and con-man Ostap Bender forces Kisa to become his partner, they set out to find the chairs. Bender’s street smarts and charm are invaluable to the reticent Kisa, and Bender comes to dominate the enterprise.

The “conсessioners” find the chairs, which are to be sold at auction in Moscow. They fail to buy them; they learn afterwards that the chairs have been split up for resale individually. Roaming over all of Russia in their quest to recover the chairs, they have a series of comic adventures, including living in a students’ dormitory with plywood walls, posing as bill painters on a riverboat to earn passage, bamboozling a village chess club with promises of an international tournament, and traveling on foot through the mountains of Georgia. (You can find more information on Wikipedia.)

Right… so after I remembered The Twelve Chairs I needed to make MY OWN twelve chairs, but mine all had to be different. I managed eight (that I am hapy with) and here’s half of them:

But my thoughts kept wandering… a “dining room set” led to a set of twelve garden chairs that are wooden, very simple and probably not very steady and the most important fact – there’s no way you could hide your family jewelry in them!

My twelve chairs aren’t ready yet, but I’ve already designed some prototypes. What do you think to this wonky furniture?

Now the most important job is to create the biggest monotype print I have ever made. I suppose it has to be standard A4 size (the one above is A5), so that the chairs would be visible. BUT… (there’s always a “but”) the bigger the sheet of paper, the bigger the possibily of putting unwanted smudges by pressing ones hand while drawing. I guess I’ll just have to have as many goes as need be and inform you about the results.

Meanwhile, make sure you watch one of the films based on The Twelve Chairs by Ilf and Petrov (apparently there are at least twenty adaptations!).

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 16, 2018 2:48 pm

    It sounds as though you had great fun with the chair project. It always feels so wonderful when there is an interesting project on the board and you don’t have to wrestle with yourself to find a new project. Did those Russians ever find the jewelry? I am going to have to read up on the movie.

    • March 19, 2018 6:47 pm

      Oh, yes, I do like having a few interesting projects on the go! I feel so useless when there’s nothing to look forward to… then I keep flicking through my favourite magazines and look for ideas – this might take ages, but it always leads to the best part – drawing, painting, printing… I’m sure you are familiar with all of these feelings of frustration and satisfaction. K.

      P.S. I don’t want to be the one who spoils the 12 Chairs’ story for you, but… they manage to track all chairs – they rip them to pieces one by one, hoping that the next one will contain the precious jewelry, yet even the 12th appears to be empty! It turns out that someone had already found the jewelry and had given it to the goverment. A brand new building, some village culture house, had been built for the money that it was worth.

      • March 20, 2018 9:08 pm

        That’s okay. I was going to look up the plot anyway. I hate it when I don’t have projects lined out. LOL It’s the indecision that gets to me.

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