V&A MUSEUM - PERMANENT FASHION COLLECTION
(Photographs of work by THEUNSEEN at th V&A gallery)
'Having graduated from the Manchester School of Art with the award winning Carbon emission sensing ink PdCl2, Lauren went on to study printed textiles at the Royal College of Art London; developing further multi-sensory chromic colour-change inks. Portrayed to the world through provoking pieces, magic materials and extraordinary experiences. Welcomed amongst the materials industry form aeronautics to couture under the name PHNX, Lauren will re- launch this coming fashion week as T H E U N S E E N.
A I R
This season T H E U N S E E N has developed a form of wind reactive ink that changes colour upon contact with the air around us. Intended to reveal the otherwise unseen turbulence surrounding the human as it goes about its environment.
The work by THEUNSEEN stood out in the fashion gallery as it was the only display that wasn't encased in a glass set. This drew many people over to examine the pieces in greater detail, as if it was left open to the elements, it would seem to imply that the work was more interactive. Upon further research into the artist, I discovered that the pieces hinged upon the use of colour -change inks which would be employed when in contact with AIR. This explained the different exhibition style.
(SEE IMAGE BELOW)
'Since the 16th century, needlepoint lace has epitomized luxury and elegance. Although it most likely developed in Italy for ecclesiastical use, it was soon exported throughout Europe and produced in several places. Needle lace became an essential part of every 17th century court costume -- male and female -- and elaborate ruffs, collars and cuffs appeared in endless European portraits. Its most serious competition came from the bobbin lace of Flanders, and that primarily in the 18th century. '
It is interesting to researh the needle lace, not just as a response to the piece hed in the V&A, but also to the work 'Lace Trail' by Sophie Ploeg; a collection that drew my eye at the National Portrait Gallery exhibition due to their antique look. This research then can put her work into the 17th century context she discussed in my research.
PHOTOGRAPH OF PIECE AT V&A WITH GALLERY NOTES
'In 1879 the Vienna Lace School was established as an offshoot of the School of Industrial Arts in Prague, promoting Bohemian lace industries in a period of agricultural decline. It made the full range of hand-made laces, especially fine needle lace, like this collar. The collar is developed out of the 17th century technique of raised needle lace, adapting it in a three-dimensional padded style and incorporating distinctly 19th century naturalistic floral motifs.
- Place of origin:
Vienna, Austria (made)
ca. 1880 (made)
Josef Storck, born 1830 - died 1902 (designer)
K K Zentral-Spitzenkurs (design House)
J. Stamnitzer (manufacturer)
- Materials and Techniques:
‘His female clientele flocked to see him and were delighted to discover the new image of woman that he had created. That woman had shrugged off the last remaining images of the war, with considerable and unashamed charm, and in doing so heralded a return to opulence and richly embroidered finery... it was the birth of the ‘Jolie Madame’, who symbolised the 1950s to perfection.
‘For Pierre Balmain, the 1960s were an occasion for renewal and the use of fabrics to explore pared-down shapes, in which structure acquired its full meaning. It involved a clashing and melding of new shapes and styles. It was also a sumptuous period for stage and theatre costumery ... And it also marked a meeting with Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand, who appointed him as her exclusive couturier.
‘Pierre Balmain represented a certain idea of elegance and a clientele of queens, princesses and starlets, but as a label it was also very established in the everyday world. The 1970s gave birth to the Ready-to-wear phenomenon, which secured a solid foothold in the market and which is currently producing some particularly satisfactory results with over 200 licences. ‘
Seeing the collection of Balmain gowns at the V&A, they really do epitomise the 1950s glamour, standing out as iconic examples of the era. Having sadi this however, they would not look altogether out of place in modern couture shows, Dior perhaps, also known historically for their creation of the 'new look' in the late 1940s. This silhouette is still one that feaures regularly in Dior collections, for example the spring/summer 2011 couture DIor collection by John Galliano.
'Anglo-American designer Charles James was recognized even in his heyday as a genius in the art of sculpting fabric into inventive fashions. While he produced fewer than a thousand garments over the forty-year span of his career, today he holds cult status in fashion circles, as much for his legacy of unforgettable clothes as for the magnetic force of his complex personality and his unorthodox creative process. Never having had formal dressmaking training, he developed his own methodology based on mathematical, architectural, and sculptural concepts as they relate to the human body. His venturesome and wholly original methods inspired and fascinated his contemporaries as well as the generations of designers and admirers of his fashions who followed.
'Summary of Styles and Techniques
'One of James’ credos was that there are a limited number of shapes and silhouettes but innumerable variations on them. He followed this tenet throughout his career by reusing and reworking forms and components once he had developed them, but always in different combinations, a method that resulted in wholly new compositions. No matter what type of garment or shape he was creating, James used the female body as the point of reference rather than the defining factor of his formulation. Some of his designs cleave to the body, relying solely on cut, seams, and inventive ways of manipulating the fabric to achieve style and fit; others enhance and idealize its natural form with interior padding, corsetlike boning, and exterior drapery; and still others reshape the body into fantastic silhouettes that stand away from it. In these latter instances, he used one of two methods to achieve the effect: rigid, confining understructures, often modeled on Victorian prototypes such as the corset, bustle, and crinoline; or, conversely, perfectly calibrated cut, fabric choice, and variations in placement of grain and seams based on geometric principles. He considered the space between the body and the fabric to be the crucial design focus when planning these standaway shapes. Within all of this diversity there are also constants: James’ offbeat yet sublime color sense, his artistry with combining fabrics having different surfaces and textures, and the exhilarating tracery of seams that follow the curves of the body, dissect it like a knife, or taper into infinity at the end of a dart.'
Unfortunately the piece pictured above formed part of the V&A wedding dress exhibit, and so I was unable to view it during my visit to the fashion gallery alone. There were other pieces by Charles James on display, yet I knew this piece was held at the museum, and felt this provided a perfect example of the talent of Charles James. What particularly strikes me about his work is how he can interweave classic styles of tailoring with truly unique couture techniques. Many of these pieces, I believe, would fit into modern collections stunningly well, proving just how ahead of his time this designer really was.
[ABOVE AND BELOW] Photographs displaying various cases around the gallery including a selction of Christian DIor designs and an eighteenth century gown.
The gallery space was in itself stunning; a huge round room with magnificent ceilings and featutres, such as steps up to the gallery, and ornate architecture. The circular movement space allowed for a huge flow of guests, yet still feel spacious, as the walk around the exhibits was very natural, eventually leading the visitors back to the point at which they entered.
As it was not showcasing an individual artist, the aim of the exhibition was simply to offer as wide a variety of artifacts as possible, showing the change in fashion through the years and offer the rare exerience of seeing such historic pieces in life. It certainly achieved this, as each case was filled with genuine articles throughout history, and the cyclic nature of the space linked one to the next, as well as showing the cyclic nature of fashion itself; many of the more modern pieces not dissimilar to the 18th and 19th century costume.
The cases themselves were wide and entirely made from glass, meaning every visitor could see some point of the display from where they were stood. This was important, as so often when an exhibition holds static works, people gather around and obstruct it from other visitors view.
I therefore found the gallery a success, the only downside being a lack of availible interaction with the pieces. As each piece was incredibly valuable, and often very old, the audience could only observe the work. The only exception to this was THEUNSEEN garments, (as previously mentioned), which added a more contemporary and engaging element.
THE TATE BRITAIN GALLERY
TATE BRITAIN GALLERY
Much like the V&A, the building is a beautiful space in itself, extremely light and spacious, meaning visitors can wander at their leisure without having to force through crowds of people. The individual galleries too are organised in such a way that visitors can visit one, or all of them, and still see a variety of art. The pieces stored are generally historic collections of fine art, and so the building itself works beautifully with the work it exhibits. Again, like the V&A, it does not appear to have an aim, rather seeks to display all that is fine art, and allow the visitors to select the pieces that interest them.
SIR JOSEPH EPSTEIN - TORSO IN METAL FROM 'THE ROCK DRILL', 1913-14
'For this sculpture, Epstein initially set a plaster figure on top of an actual pneumatic rock drill. This ‘machine-like robot, visored, menacing and carrying within itself its progeny’ became a symbol of the new age. He even considered adding a motor to make the piece move.Following the carnage of the First World War, Epstein removed the drill, cut the figure down to half-length and changed its arms; this torso was cast in bronze, as shown here. Mutilated and shorn of its virility, the once-threatening figure is now vulnerable and impotent, the victim of the violence of modern life.'
I had come across the piece of artwork before, when researching the Futurist art manifesto; this piece symbolising many of their ideas. I had not however realised that it once belonged to a larger sculpture. The concept of rethinking and recreating that which you have already created is fascinating, particularly given the way Epstein did this is reaction to his own context.
'For over four decades Phyllida Barlow has made imposing, large scale sculptural installations using inexpensive, everyday materials such as cardboard, fabric, timber, polystyrene, plaster, scrim and cement. Her distinctive work is focused on her experimentation with these materials, to create bold and colourful three-dimensional collages.
Drawing on memories of familiar objects from her surroundings, Barlow’s tactile and seemingly unstable sculptures often contrast with the permanence and traditions of monumental sculpture.'
'...Unlike many of her previous sculptures which take form through constant layering, the installation at Tate will be pared back. ‘I’m always slightly uncertain when things are finished,’ she says. ‘I never really know. I like that uncertainty – you can do just one thing and the piece is completely ruined. For these Tate works there is a kind of clarity – they won’t get that far. They won’t get to a stage when they have to be stripped back, because I’m trying to hold them in check.’'
'Brian Griffiths creates magical, sculptural utopias out of the debris of everyday life, using materials such as old ceramics, furniture, toys and textbooks. Always using objects as a starting point for his work, Griffiths discuss how the act of collecting leads to the point where you can ‘start to look at the strangeness of objects in the world, which you don’t usually notice because it’s a noisy place’.'
The above work by Griffiths stands in a gallery following on from the installation pieces by Phyllida Barlow. At first I had thought the two were connected, due to their vast size and use of suspension.
'RESTLESS FUTURES' - CENTRAL SAINT MARTINS
The 'Restless Futures' exhibition was held at the Kings Cross/Granary Square site of Central Saint Martins, and showcased selescted graduate work. Unlike the previous exhibtions I had visited, researching the artists themselves would not be so easy, as these artists were students, just begining to establish themselves, rather than already exhibiting artists. It was however interesting to consider the space in much the same way as other galleries. It was a smaller space, filled with work which meant visitors would have to carefully edge around pieces. This was not really a problem however, as it was a smaller exhibition, and so people could generally move around freely. The work varied enormously, yet was all tied together by a recurring display technique; red lamp cords hanging from the ceiling, onto which a board was attached with a bulldog clip. These boards then detailed the student/artist, and information on the work itself.
THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY - BP PORTRAIT AWARDS 2014
Unlike the larger National Portrait Gallery building, the BP exhibition space was a modern and small square room on the ground floor. It was incredibly plain, having no architectural interest, however often this is exactly what is needed from an exhibition space. The eye was drawn to the works rather than the room itself, and the bright room appeared spacious. However, I visited at a busy time, and as a result there was barely room to move through the space to see other walls of work. This was made worse doe to the positions of some dividing walls, which were often jutting out into the thoroughfare of the space. I am sure that, had there been fewer visitors I would not have noticed this, however the effect of this volume of guests resulted in a bottleneck of people trying to move from one area into the next.
All the work was hung and exhibited at eye level; again excellent when fewer guests were around, as this meant I was able to examine paintings very close up, and notice that which I would not otherwise have done. However, again due to the footfall, this often meant entire works were blocked from sight as people crowded around, and if you were not right at the front, the piece would be obscured from sight.
The exhibition showcased a range of artists; the aim not being to educate visitors on any particular one, rather display the talent of the nominees. For this reason the exhibition was perhaps more unusual.
I am a Dutch artist based in the United Kingdom. I studied art & architectural history (MA, Ph.D) in The Netherlands. My love for art history comes through in my work where the past plays an important role. Antique textiles and references to old masters (17th century) are integrated into my works. I explore portraits, figures and fabrics; I relish in portraying the textures of different surfaces and materials, especially lace. I mainly work in oil paint but also pastel and graphite. I have exhibited with the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, the Pastel Society and the BP Portrait Award and have paintings in various galleries in the UK and the US.
In 2013 I won the BP Travel Award at the BP Portrait Award 2013 exhibition, which gave me the opportunity to research 17th century portraiture and the depiction of lace and fabrics in it. Inspired, I created 10 new paintings, a selection of which are currently exhibited within the BP Portrait Award 2014 Exhibition.
Ploeg's work instantly caught my eye at the exhibition due to the antiquated way that she paints modern figures. Her series ''The Lace Trail' uses tones and techniques fitting with her 17trh Century inspiration, yet the portraits themselves show modern styles of hair and dress, this contrast resulting in a truly unique final piece. In an exhibition where so much of the work is more modern art based, Ploeg's work was an interestingmove away from the trend.
'The Four Ages of Woman'
'This is a series of 4 paintings in which modern 21st century women at various stages of their lives are portrayed wearing an authentic piece of early 17th century lace, as often seen in 17th century portraits. '
(from left to right)
1. THE LACE MAKER - 'The model is 9 years old, an age at which she could have been a trained lace maker already were she alive in the 17th century. This 21st century girl is wearing a kerchief (shawl) edged with authentic Flemish bobbin lace from the mid 17th century. This type of scalloped lace we often find in Dutch portraits, for example in the direct inspiration for this piece: Johannes Verspronck’s Girl in Blue which hangs in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.'
2. A FINE THREAD - 'The lace in this piece is an authentic piece of Flemish straight bobbin lace from around 1640. It has flowers and scrolling patterns that was very popular in The Netherlands in the 17th century. Because of its popularity it is often called Dutch lace. The lace shows the use of an early mesh, which would later in the century develop further when more open designs became popular.'
3. REPEATING PATTERNS - 'In many English portraits from the first quarter of the 17th century we find ruffs edged with (or completely made from) cutwork or reticella lace. In Repeating Patterns the model is wearing a ruff created from authentic 17th century reticella (needle lace).'
4. THE PEARL NECKLACE - 'The model is wearing a (modern) collar edged with a very fine authentic Italian bobbin lace from around 1620.'
'Portrait in Blue and Gold' - Clara Drummond
'The portrait is of the artist’s friend, Kirsty. The two women share a love of drawing, literature and history. During the sittings they talked about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Drummond says: ‘The painting started with a muted palette, but as I worked on it, the colours started to resemble those of the Pre-Raphaelites.’'
I was interested to observe the link to the Pre-Raphaelites during my research, as this is what had drawn me to the painting. Pre-Raphaelite is my favourite art movement, the colours and moods of the paintings, in my opinion, unlike that of any other period. I had thought the figure in the painting was rather like the models chosen by the Pre-Raphaelites; the long red hair and peaceful expression now somewhat synonymous with the PRB. The work itself is tiny in comaprison to many of the other exhibits, yet I found this to be equally interesting, resembling intricate historic works rather than sprawling pieces of modern art. It is therefore an interesting conflict when the viewer sees the painting up close, as Drummond's physical painting style is rather modern; not the smooth photo-real work of antique artists, rather a blotchy and slightly abstract technique. Perhaps due to the size of the painting the intricacies were not so important, rather the overall tone being what needed captured.
YUNSUNG JANG - MOTHER #1
Yunsung Jang under took a bachelor’s degree in fine art painting at the Academy of Art University, San Francisco followed by a masters degree in fine art at New York Academy of Art. His work has been seen in group exhibitions in New York, San Francisco and Berlin and in 2013 was awarded Best of Show in the June Ray MarArt 7th Annual Fine Art Competition.
The portrait is of the artist’s mother. Yunsung Jang says he wanted to record not justher physical likeness, but the depth of their relationship, including ‘The complexities of devotion, pity, guilt, and gratefulness that a son feels toward his mother.’
i was drawn to this piece at the exhibition given its size; dominating an entire wall and yet profoundy intricate, it was a stunning piece of work. The level of precision in the painting is similar to that of photo-realists, yet what the caption says about the artist's intention is what I find particularly interesting; [he wanted to record] 'the complexities of devotion, pity, guilt and gratefulness that a son feels towards his mother'. I believe this is conveyed beautifully, as the figure looks reamrkably natural, not as if she has been posed for the work, rather he has captured a genuine snapshot of his mother in time.
ISABELLA WATLING - GINA AND CRISTIANO
Isabella Watling studied at the Charles H. Cecil Studios, Florence, where she now teaches. Working largely to commission, her work has been seen in exhibitions in Florence and London and was previously included in the BP Portrait Award 2012.
The portrait is of Watling’s friend and fellow artist Cristiano with his dog, Gina. The portrait was painted from life under natural light, over a period of five weeks. Watling’s work is inspired by painters from the past, particularly Titian, Van Dyck and Sargent.
Watling's past influence certainly comes across in this work, and is the reason, once again, for attracting me to the piece. The murky colours and pose of the figure looks just like ancient comissioned portraits by the nobility, perhaps this is due also to the figure looking directly at the painter, making the work a self conscious piece.
'Tony' - Jelena Bulajic
Jelena Bulajic undertook a BA degree in Visual Arts, at the Academy of Arts, University of Novi Sad, Serbia and an MA in Fine Art at the City & Guilds of London Art School. Her work has been seen in solo exhibitions in Novi Sad and Belgrade and in group exhibitions in Serbia, the UK and USA.
The portrait is of Tony, an associate of the artist. Bulajics ongoing practice examines the effects of aging on the human face. The painting resulted from a three-hour sitting during which over 400 photographs were taken, one of which was selected as the source for the painting.
It was initaily the size of this piece that drew me, as well as the incredibly fine detail achieved by the artist. Given her aim to examine the effects of aging, I believe the monochromatic colour choice works extremely well. Colours are not important to the piece, the focus instead drawn to the lines and markings that fully convey the ageing skin.
[Left - 'Portrait of Sidney Wells' by Joanna Mary Wells 1859, on display at Tate Britain]
Joanna Mary Wells painted this portrait of her second child, Sidney, while he was still less than a year old. Such a young baby must have been impossible to keep still, which probably explains the difficulty she experienced in seizing a likeness.This has been interpreted as a highly personal work, possibly because of its small icon-like format. It also became a very poignant image after the early deaths of both Sidney and Joanna Mary Wells.
[Right - 'A Whole Life Ahead' by Dick de Vries]
'Dick de Vries is a self-taught artist, working in a variety of styles, but always in oil paint. He is also a trained painting conservator, but having retired, now largely paints any subject that catches his attention.
'The portrait is of the artist’s granddaughter who is four months old. De Vries says: ‘One day, while she was sitting on a chair in my garden, she looked at the world with a slightly worried look. I was touched by that expression and created this painting, A Whole Life Ahead.’'
This piece was a small portrait at the exhibition but drew me due to the similarity between it, a modern day painting, and the piece shown on the left, a 19th century portrait with which I was familiar. While not mentioned in the caption, I believe de Vries must have looked to this portrait, or similar, as inspiartion, as the small painting of the young child was a common Victorian work.
THE WELLCOME COLLECTION
The Wellcome Collection fuses the science and art worlds by offering an almost personal collection of medical curiousites. It is a very small space, yet incredibly interactive, meaning the visitor can spend a significant amount of time at ecah individual artifact. As the entire space is focused around medicine and art, the rooms are filled with objects realting to this, not really organised by subject matter, date or artist; simply filled with items of general interest.
ANNIE CATTRELL - 'SENSE'
The five senses become personified as they sit majestically, suspended in glass cubes mounted on white plinths. Unassuming at first glance, a closer inspection reveals the true magnificence of the neurological functions they represent. Formed by magnetic resonance imaging of a subject’s brain as they experience each of the senses - Annie’ Cattrell’s glasswork is truly spectacular and especially significant in art-science progression. For her use of scientific methods and processes to artistically interpret scientific ideas assists in weakening the wall that separates the two disciplines.
Annie’s work is driven by the notion of ‘contemplating something you think you know but shouldn’t really be seeing that way’, an approach that is in many ways fundamentally scientific. For our curiosity in the bits of matter that make up our universe and the genes that code for the colours of the numerous follicles of hair on each of our heads is continuously stretched and expanded by new technologies that allow us to see the answers to these questions in ways we would never have expected. Her piece brings to the foreground an expression of a basal facet of our anatomical functionality (touching, smelling, tasting, hearing and seeing) that in the involuntary operations of our day-to-day we do not even consider.
‘The elegant simplicity of the sculptures belies the complexity of the technology required to make them’ - indeed the expertise involved in converting the FMRI images into 3-dimensional amber resin structures is elaborate but more intricate even are the manoeuvres of the brain of which they are from. For here therein lays the crux of an art-science dialogue; art with its endless vocabulary is able to make the convolutions and complexities of science more available and accessible, grasping the attention of a wider audience than science otherwise would.
'grasping the attention of a wider audience than science otherwise would' is an interesting claim with regard to this work, as I believe it has pinpointed the very aim of the Wellcome Collection itself. Blurring the artistic and scientific worlds appeals to bboth audeiences, as well as introducing one to the other.
A Plastinated Body Slice [Gunter von Hagens]
'In its most basic form, plastination is the replacement of organic liquids with synthetic alternatives. After death the fluids are removed from the body and replaced by a series of plastic resins. This halts the process of decomposition and creates long-lasting medical specimens. The plastics used form such a direct replacement that after completion a plastinated body weighs almost exactly the same as it did when alive. Notably the plastics harden in such a way that the body can be moulded into various positions, but also – as in the case of the specimen in Medicine Now – they can be directly cut down the middle into a series of slices.
...Critics question whether plastination dangerously blurs the line between science and art, whether there can ever be complete consent for the process and finally, and with a nod to the history of anatomy, whether the body is really something that should be ‘messed’ with and put on public display.
...Von Hagens himself maintains that plastination is strictly medical and has nothing to do with either sensationalism or art...
"From my perspective, however, plastinated specimens are not works of art, because they have been created for the sole purpose of sharing insights into human anatomy. Art, unlike the products of skilled trades and the sciences, is not created for a purpose."
'NEURAL NEXUS' - Pat York
This print, showing the nerve endings, brain and spinal cord of the human being, is strangely beautiful to look at, perhaps due to the monochromatic colour choice, or the almost etheral look of the nerve endings. At first however, I had thought this showed the skeleton of some kind of animal; the spine appears as a spine, but the brain almost resembles a skull, and the nerve endings, legs. Due to the entire shape being white, the overall effect is skeletal, but on closer inspection it is clear that the shapes could not possibly be bones. The initial effect of believing this to be the case is interesting however, as the viewer is instantly trying to imagine what creature this 'skeleton' could possibly be from.
'It is not clear whether this corset was worn in order to minimise the waist (in line with contemporary fashion) or as an orthopaedic device, to support the back or correct a spinal deformity. Up until the late 19th century, both men and women regularly wore corsets. Army officers wore them with tightly tailored uniforms to emphasise their straight backs and rigid discipline.'
This piece drew my eye because I had not been expecting to see an item such as a corset in a medical gallery, however it is one made from brass, and so in fact appears more medical than fashionable. Seeing a staple item off fashion history in such an unusual environment highlights the dangers and unnatural nature of a piece that, had this been displayed in afashione xhibit such as the V&A, would hardly cross the viewer's mind.