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Furniture, Sculpture and Design Come Together at New Gallery

The walls of Rouge Concept, a new gallery on Queen East, fresh with a coat of paint, holds works of art, of course. But don't be surprised to also find one-of-a-kind side tables, small cabinets and cast glass decorative bowls.

"The idea was to bring contemporary art furniture, sculpture and design elements together," says gallery co-owner, Christian Bernard Singer. "It's a sort of look back to the turn of the last century when art and design were one thought."

Opposite the entrance, across the long expanse of a polished wood floor, hangs an imposing 2.3-metre-by-2-metre painting by Canadian artist Julie Oakes called "Big Head." Set against a deep black background, it depicts in fine detail the many subtle shades of black on a Doberman's head and upper body. A narrow brilliant light that shines from above turns the dog's chest and ears into molten gold.

At the foot of the painting sits a small elegant geometric chair by Jens Stürup. A few feet away, a free-standing silkscreen, also by Oakes, serves as a room divider. Its wings enfold a "slumped" glass chair and shields the gallery's informal lounge area where a functional wall cabinet by Stürup assumes double duty as a piece of art above the big chocolate brown couch.

Stürup, a native of Toronto, came back to live here only a few months ago after spending 20 years in Los Angeles as a director of photography in the film industry.

His foray into furniture art started in 2005 when Stürup says he wanted a new creative outlet, one where he could work on his own rather than participate in a collaborative effort, such as filmmaking.

"I got very inspired," he says. "I came to it very naturally and progressed from there."

At first he experimented with plywood and plain veneers. Later he added dark and light veneers of different types of wood on the same piece.

He has since incorporated colour, finishing the works with painted panels in soft shades.

So far he has produced small tables, wall cabinets and chairs.

"Right now I'm just exploring elemental ideas that can be done on a smaller scale. I love the way this undulates," Stürup says, pointing to a wall-mounted cabinet with four doors set at an angle to each other for a wave effect.

He has ambitions to make large integrated pieces in the future and perhaps even turn his hand to acquiring equipment that would allow him to fashion elaborate curves.

For now, he's happy to have his work displayed at Rouge.

Stürup met Singer and his partner Nancy Grenier through a mutual friend.

"They were looking for furniture art and I emailed the photos to them. The next thing you know, they're asking me to come in," Stürup says.

Asked about the real practicality of one of his chairs, for example, Stürup concedes he didn't fashion it for comfort.

It's meant, he says, to serve as an accent.

"A lot of accent pieces aren't comfortable," Singer adds. "You might have a couple of comfortable chairs and this wonderful sculptural piece that is actually functional and brings everything together, and brings interest to the space."

Perhaps.

But with endless talk about a recession, consumers might be willing to spend $60 for a set of glass coasters by Renato Foti.

But will they pay $1,500 for Stürup's chair, $8,500 for Oakes' Doberman or $14,000 for her screen?

Definitely, Singer says.

"We've had a sense of the recession (but only) in that instead of buying a new house, they're going to fix up what they have. They'll buy a fabulous piece of art to change the mood, change the feeling of the house so they feel like they have a new house."

Singer also dismisses the notion that people living in condos wouldn't - or shouldn't - consider purchasing large canvases. On the contrary, he says many newer condos have the high ceilings that make the perfect backdrop for such art. The gallery's offerings and the way they're laid out in relation to each other aims to show how people can "live" with art, Grenier says.

Rouge Concept opened in October. It's at 732 Queen St. For information visit rougeconcept.ca.

Furniture, Sculpture and Design  Come Together at New Gallery 1

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