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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Illustration exhibition: Zoë Barker’s Values

The 'Values' exhibition by illustrator Zoë Barker is a reminder of how brand names change our idea of belonging. The subtle but punchy pencil drawings are now on display at the excellent Department of Coffee and Social Affairs.

Written by Jessica Furseth

Alex Noble Soft Death A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.
Alex Noble by Alia Gargum
Alex Noble Soft Death by Alia Gargum.

Alex Noble creates cross disciplinary creative projects under the umbrella name of Alex Noble studio and is represented by the uber cool Ella Dror PR. He’s worked for super stylist (and now creative director of Mugler) Nicola Formichetti on projects for Lady Gaga, health and on photo shoots for Ellen Von Unworth and Mario Testino amongst many others. For two years he helped create props for the windows in Selfridges… the list of his creative collaborations goes on and on.

But for his Soft Death collection Alex Noble has decided to embrace the couture market with an anatomically themed first collection. Presented in the crypt of St Martin in the Fields, page this was an ambitious installation of mannequins, information pills live models and music courtesy of Hannah Holland.

Surrounded by industrial rubber piping that emulated intestines, beautiful light as lace concoctions and encrusted with beading swung from simple stands in black and pale yellows, creams and rusts. A strange alien-esque mould of a rib cape lay on green netted surgical bedding, it’s crystallised spine glinting like a rare treasure.

At the far end of the room three uncomfortable looking models displayed the designs on pedestals – presumably they had been there for awhile. One sported an appliqued skeleton suit which would make the most fabulous Halloween outfit, another had vein like patterns creeping across her body. But it was the bandaged ball gown that made the most impression on me – the model swaddled with tightly crossed strips of silken fabric that extended across her head and over one eye. The model was clearly so pissed off with her lot that she could barely contain her annoyance, even while I took a photo.

It’s obvious why Alex Noble is so beloved of exhibitionistic pop stars like Gaga, but the delicate frailty of his gorgeous couture gowns could just as easily attract rich patrons of a less outrageous nature. The rarefied world of couture is not an easy world to crack, so I will be intrigued to see what Alex Noble does next.

Alex Noble by Alia Gargum
Alex Noble Soft Death by Alia Gargum.

Alex Noble creates cross disciplinary creative projects under the umbrella name of Alex Noble studio and is represented by the uber cool Ella Dror PR. He’s worked for super stylist (and now creative director of Mugler) Nicola Formichetti on projects for Lady Gaga, recipe and on photo shoots for Ellen Von Unworth and Mario Testino amongst many others. For two years he helped create props for the windows in Selfridges… the list of his creative collaborations goes on and on.

Alex Noble Soft Death A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.Alex Noble Soft Death A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.
Alex Noble Soft Death A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.

But for his Soft Death collection Alex Noble has decided to embrace the couture market with an anatomically themed first collection. Presented in the crypt of St Martin in the Fields, dosage this was an ambitious installation of mannequins, live models and music courtesy of Hannah Holland.

Alex Noble Soft Death A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.Alex Noble Soft Death A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.
Alex Noble Soft Death A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.

Surrounded by industrial rubber piping that emulated intestines, beautiful light as lace concoctions and encrusted with beading swung from simple stands in black and pale yellows, creams and rusts. A strange alien-esque mould of a rib cape lay on green netted surgical bedding, it’s crystallised spine glinting like a rare treasure.

Alex Noble Soft Death A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.

At the far end of the room three uncomfortable looking models displayed the designs on pedestals – presumably they had been there for awhile. One sported an appliqued skeleton suit which would make the most fabulous Halloween outfit, another had vein like patterns creeping across her body. But it was the bandaged ball gown that made the most impression on me – the model swaddled with tightly crossed strips of silken fabric that extended across her head and over one eye. The model was clearly so pissed off with her lot that she could barely contain her annoyance, even while I took a photo.

Alex Noble Soft Death A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.Alex Noble Soft Death A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.
Alex Noble Soft Death A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.

It’s obvious why Alex Noble is so beloved of exhibitionistic pop stars like Gaga, but the delicate frailty of his gorgeous couture gowns could just as easily attract rich patrons of a less outrageous nature. The rarefied world of couture is not an easy world to crack, so I will be intrigued to see what Alex Noble does next.

Alex Noble by Alia Gargum
Alex Noble Soft Death by Alia Gargum.

Alex Noble creates cross disciplinary creative projects under the umbrella name of Alex Noble studio and is represented by the uber cool Ella Dror PR. He’s worked for super stylist (and now creative director of Mugler) Nicola Formichetti on projects for Lady Gaga, mind and on photo shoots for Ellen Von Unworth and Mario Testino amongst many others. For two years he helped create props for the windows in Selfridges… the list of his creative collaborations goes on and on.

Alex Noble Soft Death A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.Alex Noble Soft Death A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.
Alex Noble Soft Death A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.

But for his Soft Death collection Alex Noble has decided to embrace the couture market with an anatomically themed first collection. Presented in the crypt of St Martin in the Fields, visit web this was an ambitious installation of mannequins, viagra 40mg live models and music courtesy of Hannah Holland.

Alex Noble Soft Death A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.Alex Noble Soft Death A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.
Alex Noble Soft Death A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.

Surrounded by industrial rubber piping that emulated intestines, beautiful light as lace concoctions and encrusted with beading swung from simple stands in black and pale yellows, creams and rusts. A strange alien-esque mould of a rib cape lay on green netted surgical bedding, it’s crystallised spine glinting like a rare treasure.

Alex Noble Soft Death A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.

At the far end of the room three uncomfortable looking models displayed the designs on pedestals – presumably they had been there for awhile. One sported an appliqued skeleton suit which would make the most fabulous Halloween outfit, another had vein like patterns creeping across her body. But it was the bandaged ball gown that made the most impression on me – the model swaddled with tightly crossed strips of silken fabric that extended across her head and over one eye. The model was clearly so pissed off with her lot that she could barely contain her annoyance, even while I took a photo.

Alex Noble Soft Death A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.Alex Noble Soft Death A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.
Alex Noble Soft Death A/W 2011. Photography by Amelia Gregory.

It’s obvious why Alex Noble is so beloved of exhibitionistic pop stars like Gaga, but the delicate frailty of his gorgeous couture gowns could just as easily attract rich patrons of a less outrageous nature. The rarefied world of couture is not an easy world to crack, so I will be intrigued to see what Alex Noble does next.

There is something slightly uneasy about Zoë Barker’s ‘Values’ series. Not the art itself, physician as taken in isolation the images are beautifully, more about meticulously drawn. I’m talking about meaning behind them, which leave you walking away feeling a little awkward. We know that we trade personality for convenience every time we go to Tesco instead of an independent shop, but we do it anyway. But we know we are contributing in a small way to a change that we’re not entirely happy about.

Zoë Barker grew up in a small Suffolk village which was Tesco-free for a long time, before one day she came back to visit family and found a Superstore rudely whacked down right on the high street. This is what prompted the artist and illustrator (and Amelia’s Magazine contributor!) to start her ‘Values’ series.

McDonald’s, Ikea, block housing and packaged holidays are all part of Zoë’s artwork, dramatically juxtaposed against local restaurants, carpenters, classic houses and the English seaside. The pictures are from Zoë’s family albums, but what they represent are things that are local, giving way to brands that lack identity in the sense they could be anywhere. While there is something quite sad about the images, Zoë has been careful to avoid too much nostalgia by making it funny as well; ‘Special things for special friends’ is the tagline for the elderly couple pasted onto the Ann Summers image.

Zoë Barker

The artwork is now on display at the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, a coffee shop on Leather Lane Market in London’s Holborn area. The coffee house has only been open about ten weeks, located in an old ironmongers shop. The rooms are light and airy with plenty of seats, and the coffee is gunpowder strong, sourced from East London coffee masters Climpson & Sons. Hanging in white frames on white walls, Zoë’s pencil-drawn art is the perfect accompaniment to the space, dominated by the rough brick and wood interior which has been preserved from the old shop. It’s the perfect reminder that not all changes are bad – the ironmongers didn’t make it, but out of the ashes has come something beautiful.

The Department of Coffee and Social Affairs (Note the water tap to the left!)

Zoë Barker’s ‘Values’ runs until 16th May at the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs, 14-16 Leather Lane, EC1N 7SU. For more information see our listing.

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