Originally from Asia, natural cane has conquered followers in Brazil since colonial times, due to its lightness and coolness
14 Mar 2019, 9:25 pm
BY REGINA GALVÃO
“When I made furniture, cane was almost inexistent, nobody used it. I reinstituted cane from colonial traditions. Cane comes from India and became a Brazilian tradition. Cane was used in Brazil for a long time. It was suitable for local natural conditions, specially the heat in Rio de Janeiro and even São Paulo. It was one of the necessary elements in a modern piece of furniture”.
The testimony of Portuguese Joaquim Tenreiro is included in the book “Madeira, arte e design” [Wood, art and design], launched in 1985 to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the company João Fortes Engenharia. In the interviews given to the organizers of the event, Ascânio MMM e Ronaldo Rego Macedo, Tenreiro comments his surprise when arriving in Brazil in 1928, and realizing that the style of our furniture had nothing to do with the local climate, following European patterns and showing great quantities of velvet and damasks.
Along the conversation, Tenreiro even quotes a letter from the Portuguese writer and diplomat Eça de Queiroz to the journalist Eduardo Prado in 1900, in which he references such characteristics in Brazilian homes: “…there wasn’t one honest cane chair, where at the end of the day, the body could find rest and coolness; and there they go, the damasks in strong colors, furniture with gold feet, thick tassel curtains, the cumbersome upholstered decorations with which Paris and London defend themselves from the snow, and where the microbe triumphs…”.
It is worthy to say that it was not always like that. Natural cane was present in the furniture produced here during colonial times, specially in the mansions of Rio de Janeiro, but lost its territory with the arrival of John VI of Portugal and the opening ports, which introduced the tropics to neoclassicism, influencing the hybrid style in local production. It then returned to popularity in the 1940s with the creation of the first pieces of modern furniture, that had as pioneer precisely Joaquim Tenreiro. Ready to make items with dimensions more adequate for the new starting architecture, and with materials better suited to our climate, the Portuguese designer began to employ natural weave in its pieces, at times in the seat, others in the back, or in both.
“The cane is not a Brazilian invention, but using it frequently and very elegantly, Tenreiro nationalized it”, Graça Bueno ponders, owner of Passado Composto Século XX gallery, of São Paulo. She reminds us of other classics from that same time that also surrendered to the open weave: Geraldo de Barros, with the M110 (from the fifties); Branco & Preto, with the chair Palhinha (1952); Móveis Ambinete, the gallery and manufacturer from São Paulo; Sergio Rodrigues, with the chair Lucio (1956) and the armchair Oscar (1956); Oscar e Anna Maria Niemeyer, with the bench Marquesa (1974) and the chaise-longue Rio (1978), amongst so many others. At SP-Arte, the gallerist will bring two chairs of the model Recurva de Espaldar Alto, with both seat and back in natural cane, created in 1949 by Tenreiro.
Amongst contemporary designers, natural cane is still a success with its sheerness, ventilation and artisanal touch. From Rio, Gustavo Bittencourt employs the material since 2009, when, as a student, he created the rocking chair Nonô. In his portfolio are many other pieces of likewise style. The most recent ones are from the line Benjamin, composed of a chair and an armchair with footrest, that will be showcased in the next SP-Arte. “I like the lightness and the comfort it provides. Moreover, the material softly adapts to shapes of the body”, he says.
Gerson de Oliveira, Luciana Martins’ duo at design studio Ovo, returns to the raw material in their new collection after ten years. “Even if the material references the past, our intention was always renewing such element, as we did with the chair Terceira and the line of folding screens I Beg Your Pardon, in which whole screens were combined with wooden structures”, he tells us. “The open weave came back in our chairs Alça and Trapézio, because the sheerness helps to highlight the sinuous lines of the wooden structure”, nods Gerson.
Regina Galvão is a journalist, graduated by the Social Communication School Casper Líbero, with a pre-MBA in Marketing by the California University in San Diago (UCSD), with postgraduate studies in Art History at Fundação Armando Alváres Penteado (FAAP), in São Paulo. As an editor, she worked in magazines like Casa Claudia, within Abril, and Casa Vogue, of Globo Condénast. In 2018, she participated in the curatorial team of the show Brazilian Stones, Original Design, coordinated by Adélia Borges at the Vitória Stone Fair, in Vitória, and was a curator in the exhibits MoMA Design – Collection Fiesp (2017), at the Shopping Mall D&D; Pensamento Circular (2014) at the Museu da Belas Artes (Muba); amongst others.
At this 15th SP-Arte, the design sector comes to its 4th edition. Focused on furniture, lighting and antiques, the sector gathers major contemporary designers in the country, as well as classic names within Brazilian design.