In 1987 Themes & Variations presented a collection of welded steel furniture by, then up-and-coming designer, Tom Dixon. It was the embodiment of the punk scene, West London as a nucleus of creativity, and the gallery’s fast-growing reputation as champions of a burgeoning new generation of British designers.
To mark the occasion of the gallery’s final show in Westbourne Grove, Themes & Variations presents Tom Dixon: Metalhead, an anthology of archival and new pieces tracing Dixon’s career from the 1980s to today.
Dixon has lived many design lives. Beginning in 1983 as an untrained designer welding chairs from metal scavenged in scrap yards, his emergence as a singular talent in a select group of dynamic subversives saw him ascend to the helm of British design – creating contemporary classics across furniture, lighting and objects as Creative Director of Habitat, and later Artek, working with Italian giant Cappellini, and since 2002, through his eponymous design firm Tom Dixon.
Whether employing ancient handmaking traditions or high tech processes, there is an essential attitude concurrent across Dixon’s extensive catalogue, one that despite his indelible contribution to industrial design, has retained the renegade spirit of his early metal works. The works presented contemplate Dixon through the lens of the designer as a restless and industrious maker in perpetual exploration of the potential of materials and techniques.
Since the pandemic, Dixon’s interest in hands-on experimentation has re-emerged as his primary preoccupation. Relocating to an orchid farm in Sussex, with no brief or concern for commercial viability, his return to a free form and rudimentary design process has been about rediscovering his love of making. Self-described as suffering the ‘delusion’ of always being at the very beginning of his career, this exhibition casts a retrospective gaze over the last forty years in anticipation of where Dixon will go next.
Photography: Dan Fontanelli