Precarious. Provocative. Playful. Daring. A few of these feelings might be conjured up when looking at a piece of Michael Coffey Sculptural furniture. Asymmetry, one of the hallmarks of Michael’s work, is particularly successful at provoking these reactions.
Michael’s unique Geolithic Carving style, inspired by the action of water on rocks over millennia, is asymmetrical by default. A prime example is the Galaxy I Wall, shown left.
Asymmetry is a feature of the natural world. It is dynamic, free-flowing, and alive. Often visually unexpected, it challenges order. It takes risks. Michael uses asymmetry in designing because it catches the eye and shakes up our sense of control.
Symmetry, existing only in the man-made world, is safe, neat and dull. Balance tends to make us feel comfortable and at ease. Asymmetry smashes through this comfort. It can be unsettling or quirky. It may look like a mistake. Objects that are not identical on either side grab our attention and challenge our comfort. They shake things up and provoke discussion. If handled well, the visually unexpected of asymmetry is exciting and playful.
Michael’s designs experiment with asymmetry in a variety of ways.
A tipping point
The asymmetry of the Heron III Foyer Table is exciting because it seems an impossibility that it does not tip over. It appears to balance gracefully but precariously en pointe. Of course, its imbalance is an illusion as the piece is secured sturdily to the wall.
Sometimes, the imbalance of asymmetry is resolved with counterbalance. The Touch and Go II Cabinet exemplifies this idea.
Pas de Deux I Dining Table
In the Pas de Deux Dining Table, one piece of the base appears to slide in on it’s back conveying movement and imbalance. The straddling piece grounds and counterbalances the base. The swooping movement of the body of the Viking chair is grounded and counterbalanced by the offset seat and pedestal.
El Morro Desk with Matador Chair
In the photo to the left, Matador is paired with the El Morro Desk, itself a study in asymmetry. Matador’s single arm has been modified so that it does not interfere with the opening of the drawers. Good function is not incompatible with daring design.
3-D Line completion
At times an asymmetrical line or shape completes itself in 3 dimensionality – such as an oblique carving line rounding the bend. The Matador Chair plays with design principles of both counterbalance and 3-D line completion. The pedestal is offset, cantilevered in the opposite direction of the arm. The base of the pedestal thrusts to the right under the leaning pedestal to keep the chair from falling over. The tip of the base in the rear becomes a ridge which rises up along the pedestal, rosses the underside of the back and ends at the tip of the single arm. This ridge unites the base, pedestal, back and arm. The rising sweep of this line creates a feeling of thrust and power, much like the lunge of the iconic Spanish matador, sword in hand, as he delivers the coup de grace to his horned adversary. And he does so of course with balance and grace.