Three exhibitions for the price of one! In fact three exhibitions for the price of none if you head over to White Cube Bermondsey who offer free admission and are currently host to three different artists across their north, south and 9x9x9 gallery spaces. The first space you enter off the main corridor contains Cerith Wyn Evans’ huge neon installation ‘Neon Forms (After Noh IV) which is suspended from the ceiling and almost reaches the floor, combining single lines of light amidst chaotic overlapping assemblages. The north gallery space compliments the first show, as Ann Veronica Janssens’ sculptural works similarly play with light and perception; including halogen lamps, venetian blinds covered in gold leaf, reflective and mirrored surfaces and a spillage of glitter across the floor. The final (and largest) south gallery space is dedicated to Damian Ortega which again includes large-scale sculptures and installations alongside two-dimensional pieces. Orange infographics are pinned to the white walls, and although the imagery relates to a camera manual, the workings of a gun, or the planets within the solar system, closer inspection reveals that the labels are philosophical and comment on the impact technology has had on people’s faith and belief. Within these two-dimensional works are a series of industrial and mechanical sculptures such as the coliseum created from concrete blocks in concentric circles, and the clever ‘Deconstructing time’ sculptures which comprise the inner workings of a watch enlarged to an enormous scale and separated across the floor or stacked in free standing towers. The weather may be turning grey and miserable as autumn sets in, but the change in season also initiates the opening of several inspiring exhibitions to keep you indoors and happily distracted from the weather outside – and White Cube’s current offering certainly falls into that category!
The Fashion and Textile Museum has diverged from its usual curatorial style in its current ‘Missoni Art Colour’ exhibition. Unlike the two shows that predate it; ‘Art and Textiles: Marian Clayden’ and ‘Liberty in Fashion’ there is a much stronger focus on art in a traditional sense rather than fashion – notably in 20th century European contemporary art and its undeniable influence on Ottavio and Rosita Missoni. Upon entering the exhibition, you are greeted by a corridor of modernist masterpieces including works by Sonia Delaunay, Gino Severni, Lucio Fontana and Enrico Pampolini amongst others which highlights the impact the colours, shapes and ideas futurist and cubist artists had on the Italian designers. Once you pass through this corridor, the next gallery houses over 40 mannequins, set across seven stepped levels, each dressed in a distinctive Missoni knitted yarn design (dating from 1997 – present day). This astounding display is backed by a simple translucent curtain with spotlights dimming or changing colour every few minutes, which in turn switches your focus to different garments within the display. If this wasn’t enough, this gallery displays previously unseen textile studies, paintings and monumental patchworks of knitted fabrics by Ottavio Missoni which illustrate formative works of their signature graphic style. A staircase behind this presentation leads you to the first floor gallery which contains a collection of sculptures, early digital works and other constructivist art. Each piece explores notions around art and its purpose, form and function, as well as culture and technology in the same way Missoni design did – I particularly appreciated Getulio Alviani’s 1960’s two dimension geometric work created from sixteen squares of aluminium each with a different satin finish positioned side by side, and several of the plastic Bauhaus-esque sculptures. Few exhibitions are quite so true to their title, but this one is literally brimming with Missoni, art and colour!
Vibrant colours (purples, oranges, pinks and blues), luxuriant materials (velvet, silk, felted wool and brushed cotton) and unusual techniques (ombre dying, shibori, toaster printing, passementerie and ikat) combine for an effective retrospective on British designer Marian Clayden. Using a combination of large-scale silk prints and finished garments hung on dummies, the Fashion and Textile Museum takes visitors on a chronological journey through the often overlooked designers’ career. Clayden studied art at Nottingham School of Art and taught at primary schools as well as exhibiting paintings in Harris Museum throughout the 1950’s before emigrating to Australia in 1962 where she began exploring dying techniques, despite only taking one short course in dying at college. The exhibition opens with impressive 1969 garments commissioned for the musical Hair (and produced in the kitchen!), following Clayden’s move to California and subsequent introduction to set and costume designer Nancy Potts. Things moved quickly and throughout the 1970’s Clayden participated in nine group exhibitions across America, Canada, Japan, Poland and back home in the UK. She also spent a year in Iran during this period, and the exhibition goes on to display ropes, hand dyed cotton and ripped silk influenced by her travels. The following decade saw the launch of Clayden Inc. which expanded to produce four collections each year, and the upstairs galleries showcase new print design techniques utilising clamps and a household sandwich toaster, as well as her constant experimentation with different materials. Throughout the exhibition, the accompanying text is accessible and explains complex techniques in simple terms, paralleling Clayden who despite creating high fashion garments for the likes of Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor and Sigourney Weaver was keen to share her skills and knowledge with everyone, and even produced educational tools for that purpose. Likewise, the layout and use of clothed dummies gives each piece space and allows visitors to appreciate the materials and techniques being celebrated.
I’d describe myself as a fledgling cyclist yet have already been the unhappy recipient of a Penalty Notice for Disorder and a £60 fine courtesy of the Royal Parks Police on my way to work one morning, so was eager to educate myself more about the UK’s fastest growing method of urban transport at the ‘Cycle Revolution’ exhibition. Visitors are greeted by Ben Wilson’s steel sculpture created from bike frames in the museum atrium, and tyre tracks then lead you up the stairs to the exhibition floor itself. Once there the show is separated into different “tribes” – ‘High Performers’, ‘Thrill Seekers’, ‘Urban Riders’, ‘Cargo Bikers’, ‘Frame Builders’ and a look into the ‘Future of Cycling’. Numerous iconic bikes including Bradley Wiggins’ 2015 Hour Record bike and 2014 World Championship Time Trial bikes, Chris Hoy’s 2012 Olympic Track bike and the earliest Brompton prototype in existence are all handsomely displayed. However what I found more interesting were the personal stories of London’s 155,000 inhabitants who now cycle to work every day including the ultimate urban cyclist Lucy Granville, heavily pregnant and still using her bike to navigate her way across the city! Similarly the ‘Future of Cycling’ provided insights into urban planners global responses to the growing needs of 21st century cyclists as well as showcasing pioneering new bikes; notably Bamboo Bicycle Club’s innovative and sleek matt black 2015 Road Bike created from sustainable bamboo and joined using flax fibre and an eco-epoxy resin. This bike could have equally sat amongst the other British ‘Frame Builders’ as the Club teaches people to build their own bespoke frames rather than mass producing bikes. This is the Design Museums’ final exhibition at their current Shad Thames location, and it has certainly clicked into gear and ended on a high.
As a huge fan of the Tudor-style Regents Street store, its prints, textiles, clothes and collaborations, it would have been difficult for me not to enjoy an exhibition celebrating 140 years of Liberty! Opening with an orientation room presenting a timeline from 1875 when Arthur Lasenby Liberty founded his Oriental Bazar selling imported goods through to the present day, the exhibition immediately puts in context what you are about to see. Beginning with this relationship with the East; ten mannequins dressed in opulent kimonos created from silk, velvet and crepe de chine are set against a backdrop of Jaipur wallpaper by Zoffany. This smoothly rolls into the next gallery focussing on the ‘Arts and Crafts’ and ‘Aesthetic’ movements at the turn of the century which acted against the structured corsets and upholstery of late 1800’s women’s clothing and celebrated a more natural shape and handcrafted embroidery. From the close of the First World War onwards the delicate prints, small-scale densely patterned textiles, and peacock feather decorations that are now ubiquitous with Liberty began to emerge into the mainstream, and by the 1950’s the brand realised they had their own original William Poole archive of ‘Art Nouveau’ designs to draw from. These were revitalised in vivid pinks, blues, purples and greens in the ‘Lotus Collection’, popular across London, Paris, Rome and New York. Similarly the 1960’s saw influential designers and boutique owners such as Mary Quant using Liberty prints in trend setting collections – a theme which has continued into the present day in collaborations with Vivienne Westwood, Kenzo, Barbour and Nike to name a few. Complete garments, lengths of various prints, original packaging and boxes, working sketches and even a gallery devoted their children’s clothing and smocks make this a comprehensive and enjoyable experience – and an avid reminder of how Liberty’s “unique blend of tradition and innovation” continues to be so popular today.
Bompass & Parr’s new breathable cocktail installation ‘Alcoholic Architecture’ is cloaked in mystery and those with tickets are provided with very little information prior to their experience. It is located behind Borough Market next to Southwark Cathedral (the UK’s oldest gothic cathedral and site of an ancient monastery) and certainly plays on this monastic theme… guests are greeted by robed monks who stamp your hand with a cultish symbol before allowing you to enter the basement. This theme continues with archaic signage, faux stain-glass windows, bar staff dressed in robes, and the ‘Holy Orders’ drinks menu is similarly designed to look like a church service offering Heavenly Tonics, Canonical Cocktails, Sacred Shots, Trappist Brews and Celibate non-alcoholic options. Don’t be fooled by these names – this is a dangerous cocktail list comprising absinthe and Buckfast, the fortified wine Scottish parliament is currently trying to ban from entering the country. Attendees are given a fifty minute time slot and at 9pm I was given a disposable mac before entering the ‘Walk-in-Cloud’ installation. A neon sign warns those entering to “breathe responsibly” as the cloud is composed of spirits and mixer at a ratio of 1:3 and uses humidifiers to saturate the air, allowing alcohol to enter the bloodstream through your lungs and eyeballs! The macs are certainly necessary as it is very sticky inside the cloud and my companion and I likened the experience to an upmarket version of the sweaty nightclubs you went to aged 16 (in my case pre-smoking ban), complete with sticky floors, dense alcohol permeated air, and an eclectic playlist! My only criticism is that the cloud is fairly small and once you have walked through it a few times (I couldn’t stay in it continuously) there were a couple of ‘what should I do now?’ moments where a talk or having more information available would have been welcome.