Saturday, 29 June 2013

Alice Kettle: Garden of England, The Queen's House, Greenwich

I first discovered the beautiful work of Alice Kettle in 1997, in an exhibition organised by Art Angels in the Neo-Natal department at King's College Hospital, Camberwell. At the time I had never seen anybody use fibre/textiles based crafts to create a body of work with fine art sensibilities like this before. She uses the humble sewing machine to actually paint and draw pictures of the human body. She was originally a fine art painter who then made the successful transition to thread and fibre art. Though small in size, the pieces displayed at King's really made an impact on me, and I never forgot them. Over the years I saw several larger pieces displayed at the Whitworth Art Gallery, on visits to Manchester, such as the Caryatids, which are a part of the Whitworth's permanent collection, and a beautiful Angel that she had created for a private collector, as well as other pieces on display at the CAA gallery in London. 

Alice is one of the foremost textile artists in this country and has an exhibition- Alice Kettle:The Garden of England,  currently running at the Queen's House, (next to the Royal Maritime Museum Greenwich),which is comprised of three new textile works. 

Above is Alice's portrait of Queen Henrietta Maria, based on existing paintings in the Queen's House collection. I really like the raised textures of the various embroidered stitches and fabrics collaged together in this portrait. It's also interesting how she has brought the thread out of the portrait and used it to wrap the the frame and run across the portrait to give it more depth. Below are textile flowers installed in the fireplace below the portrait.

The only thing that marred the viewing experience is the lighting levels which are really low to preserve the other artworks on show. This and the dark colours in the other galleries make it harder for the viewer to fully appreciate the subtleties of much of the stitch-work.

The two pictures above are of Flowerbed, a textile garden installation on the floor meant to evoke the Stuart and Tudor gardens which were a part of the grounds of the Queen's House and were also inspired by the embroidery of the period dress from the portraits of the monarchy on display in the Queen's House. It was made in collaboration with a series of makers and students.

The photos above are of Flower Helix, an installation in the stunning wrought-iron Tulip staircase of the Queen's House, which also reflect the lace dress of the courtiers and the flowers and plants found in the gardens of the Queen's house of the period. More of Alice's work can be found at her website here.

Alice Kettle: The Garden of England, continues at the Queen's House gallery, Greenwich until 18th August.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

On Trend: Dragonfly Couture

It's Men's Fashion Week, and I seem to be bang on trend with one designer at least. Having earlier posted pictures of one of my new dragonfly pieces last month, I recently saw a picture of comic Graham Norton wearing a really nice black jacket embroidered with gold dragonflies. I did some detective work and managed to track it down. I found out that it is one of several pieces from Alexander McQueen's 2013 Spring/Summer collection also based on the lovely dragonfly.
I think Alexander McQueen was a fashion visionary, and I love what the McQueen team continue to produce, (see my previous post entitled Butterfly Couture here). This new collection is no exception, I really like their new dragonfly prints on bomber jackets, as well as the dragonfly embroideries on both the men's and women's formal wear. Glad to be on the same wavelength as this esteemed label albeit in a different medium.

I covet the embroidered jacket above, but at just under £5000,it is sadly way out of my league, as far as price is concerned. These prints below though, are equally gorgeous!

Nice attention to detail in the above print, and the cut of the jacket is sharp.

Glad to see rapper Meek Mill down with the dragonfly trend in another, brighter, colour variation of the more casual bomber jacket. I really like the way the designers have made something that could have been construed as essentially a feminine motif into an equally masculine print. Mind you there's also something for the ladies too in this blouse.

Embroidery detail is amazing as is the dress print detail below.

Want a pair of these men's loafers to go with the jacket!

As I said in an earlier post, dragonflies are my new obsession and I have been busy cutting and arranging more dragonflies also, to create a new piece entitled "Whisper", a snippet of which is seen below. It is an all-white piece that relies on light to cast shadows to highlight the dragonfly silhouettes. I am really pleased with how it turned out, as it was an experimental piece that I recently decided to frame. It will be flying out ready to make its gallery debut soon.  

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Karl Blossfeldt

Also on show at the Whitechapel were the amazing photographic plant studies of Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932). I have used his images before as references and inspiration for the plants in my linocutprints, but it was good to see the original photographic prints in the gallery upstairs. They really complement the work of Uwe and Gert Tobias.

The magnification and detail captured in Blossfeldts' images had not been seen before, and one can see how they have inspired creatives and botanists since the time when they were first published, which I believe was 1928.

It interesting to see the structure and patterns in nature in such detail, and I believe Blossfeldt's images were a definate influence on Robert Mapplethorpes' photographic studies of plants and flowers.

Some of the plants such as those above, look like architectural structures, others look like African Masks or carvings, and yet others look like the sculptural fashion designs of Issey Miyake and Balenciaga. 

Looking at the detail you realise that nobody does design like Nature. These really are some of the most beautiful photographs ever taken.  

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Gert + Uwe Tobias

Just returned from a really inspiring visit to the Whitechapel Gallery. I wasn't familiar with the work of these twin brothers before, but absolutely love their out-sized woodcut prints and collages which mix hybrids of human/animal/plant and ceramic/furniture forms. Love the textures of the print, and the bright colours on dark backgrounds. Their collages are really interesting also, a mixture of abstract, textured backgrounds with Victorian ephemera collaged on top. Reminiscent of the work of both Peter Blake and Sara Fanelli. 

I also love their typewriter drawings, which is an idea I've seen used by other artists such as Carl Andre, Apollinaire and concrete poetry artists of the 1960s.

Not so successful in my opinion are their attempts at sculpture which are also on display, but nevertheless this was a really inspiring show. So glad I managed to catch it before it closes this week.

Gert + Uwe Tobias, Whitechapel Gallery, London E1