Fortuna España
Postmodern design for seating

Fortuna España

Acrylic paint, 22ct gold leaf and mirror on canvas, 1993, 150cm x 90cm.

Postmodern Furniture Design;

Spain, throughout history, has been a collection of provinces, like much of Europe. Rivalry between regions encouraged competition, pride and machismo.

There’s religion, a significant element of Spanish culture and loyalty to the local aristocracy. The Moors influence in the south said to have brought the bullfight. A ritualistic and symbolic destruction of the Beast. An arena where a man can try his luck by surviving the bull and elevate himself, be proud, have honour if only fleeting.

The Painting;

  • A horse signified prestige and a black and white spotted horse was the most prestigious. Loyalties divided regions, the land was split. This is represented by the gap in the green, where the upside-down horse is.
  • Curiously, when I was in Spain I noticed polka dot design on womens fashion. Symbols of male potency and prestige had been transposed onto womens clothing.
  • The horse is flacid. It emerges from a black square. Black represents ignorance and square because it is manmade. 
  • From the mouth of the horse comes a string of untruths. Represented by tainted, coloured dice. Dice representing luck. 
  • The eye of the horse is mirrored, a symbol of truth.
  • Political division is represented by black and red, the colours of Fascism – the line that runs diagonally from the bottom of the canvas to the top. It is on the left-hand side of the canvas signifying the past.
  • This idea that the left-hand side of the canvas represents the past is reinforced by the grey square. The colour grey signifies the past, square for manmade.
  • Also, on the left, the bullfight is represented by the negative form of two back-to-back bullrings.
  • A black bull’s horn, black for ignorance, makes a crescent shape with a star, signifying its origins in Moorish culture.
  • The blood red shape of the bullring is just above this crescent.
  • Towards the centre the notion of luck, Fortuna, is represented by purple as a ‘lottery ticket’.
  • The 22-carat gold, eye represents the Cult of The Virgin. Only a male child is considered pure enough to play the part of the virgin Mary. The sign hovers above the land, above reality.
  • The Crimson octagon signifies the aristocracy, Kings who are as rich as the poor are poor.
  • Four yellow squares represent man-made truth and hope for the future.

The Furniture Design;

  • After the bombing of Guernica in 1937 one of the few things left standing in the center of the town was an Oak tree. This Oak tree was a symbol of strength, defiance and hope. I specified oak for the structure in the design.
  • The Elements from the painting were integrated into a modular seating system that comprised of individual elements or ‘provinces’ that fitted together harmoniously – the new Spain.

Elements are chosen for their symbolic values and use language, structural linguistics, as a model.


In design, Postmodernism follows culture.
Like written and spoken language, design language and visual language comprises of an arrangement of signs, a signifier and a signified in a context with meaning.

The approach to the project is in two parts. The first part is to decide unambiguously on a subject. Followed by research and development on paper aiming for a clear final outcome that summarises the subject concisely. This research and development is best done when there is no final product in mind so as not to bias the outcome. Without clarity here, the second part cannot begin. 

The second part is to use the elements from the first part as structural components in the design of an object, now to be decided. Consider choosing an object that contributes to the overall significance that subject. The significance of the configuration and function of elements should be kept in mind and contribute to the overall significance of the finished article.

The whole process is to ensure that everything signifies what is intend for it to signify and not a pop-up prototype from ones unconscious.

The project, design for a sofa, was commissioned by manufacturer close to Barcelona, Spain.

Plan View


My work has been categorised as postmodernism or postmodern design and this general term is not a comfortable home for it. Perhaps at the very extreme of postmodernism there’s a gate and path to where it truly belongs. It’s a “Language Oriented Postmodern Design”.