Friday, January 28, 2011

GSK Contemporary 2011

Aware Art Fashion Identity is the GSK Contemporary exhibition showing at the Royal Academy of Arts until 30th January 2011. I went to see it last Sunday and it was quite interesting but there were a couple of odd display decisions. The worst element of the exhibition was without doubt the decision to place Grayson Perry's Artist's Robe in an alcove on the stairs. It looked good there, I understood the impulse, I just don't see why it wasn't defeated by logic. You couldn't walk around the garment, felt that you couldn't linger beside it, couldn't take time to look at the cloth properly. I stopped to look at it and felt psychologically hurried because I was standing on the stairs and there was no other artwork in view. Later on in the exhibition an Alexander McQueen garment was given so much space that 5 people could walk around it standing next to each other which felt oddly insulting to Perry's work. The choice of display for the robe befitted a grand house opened to the public by the National Trust but it wasn't a great choice for a textile exhibition.

In spite of that criticism the content of the exhibition, particularly the first room was interesting. Claudia Losi's jackets made from the cloth whale were extremely interesting. Helen Storey's Say Goodbye was a really intriguing concept, the Roma blankets that had been made into coats (Sewing Together) by Maria Papadimitriou can be viewed at Centre for the Aesthetic Revolution and were a fascinating insight into the textile tradition of a culture that suffers from so much negative characterisation. In short I got a lot from the exhibition, it felt like it could trigger many interesting paths of discovery and made it clear that textile art is strangely undervalued in London's galleries because there were so clearly many different approaches to different subject displayed here. Hopefully we'll see more of this kind of thing.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I've always been more concerned with garments than fashion. A piece of clothing constructed by someone I've never heard of with a clear genesis and context is as of much interest to me as a Vionnet dress so the Imperial Chinese Robes from the Forbidden City exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum was a must see. It's very difficult to put into words the response to so many robes, so beautifully woven, that are from a culture that is so at odds to the one I live in. That kind of couture is invaluable because we all encounter it so rarely in our day to day lives. Unless you're lucky enough to have a family member or close friend who can create such intricately detailed clothing this exhibition presents you with a craftsmanship that you might not have met before. Having researched weaving in the last 12 months it was quite compelling to be able to understand the method of creation. It's a shame that the robes could only be seen from the front (this is such an enduring pain for me- that clothes are displayed like paintings rather than as sculpture) particularly since the backs are no less detailed than the fronts but it's an exhibition I would consider visiting again because it was such a pleasure.