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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Alexander McQueen: Genius of a Generation Book Launch

Florence Massey speaks to Kristin Knox, author of a new book which pays tribute to the late Alexander McQueen, at the signing at Material bookstore, Kingly Court

Written by Florence Massey

mike inglis - the fall

Exploring the primitive need for belief systems in an increasingly confusing world, viagra and Culross based artist Mike Inglis presents Transmit: a series of stark, decease graphic and narrative based screen prints. Juxtaposing ancient and modern religious icons from voodoo rituals, cost catholic symbolism and contemporary graffiti, Transmit portrays and alternative moral code for a modern disconnected population.

Connecting all the pieces together is the omnipresent ‘spaceboy‘ character. A figurative symbol of disenfranchised youth, the ghost-like character appears introverted, presented in a variety of foetal, anti-social stances. Often depicted alone or with his equally disconnected female counterpart (based on the artist Kirsty Whiten) spaceboy hides inside his space helmet, shutting out the barrage of conflicting messages surrounding and consuming the world he inhabits.

“Spaceboy is very much a part of how I feel or have felt in my darker moments,” explains Inglis, “But he is also a cypher exploring how many people feel. Viewers really relate to the character and that can only be because they recognise or relate to him. Everything I make, all the characters, contain something of me but often it’s not a dominant emotion.”

But will the enigmatic Spaceboy ever reveal his true identity? “Spaceboy will never reveal his face, it’s not important how he looks, just how he feels and how we all relate to him. How he changes in relation to the spaces he inhabits and how he makes us think about our own relationships with places and people.”

In addition to his series of screen prints is Inglis’ intriguing Cigar Box Shrine, a mixed-media assemblage piece created out of found objects and pasted text. Pushing further the theme of contemporary graffiti icons as street culture replacements for their older religious counterparts, the box highlights societies fascination with religious artefacts and the interchangeable nature many of these faiths possess. The most curious items within the Shrine are the Pharmaceutical Bottles which Inglis had blessed by a bona-fide voodoo priest in Amsterdam.

“The voodoo priest was a total revelation!” Inglis reminisces, “Although from my research I knew the true profile of the religion was very complex and most of the portrayals of Voodoo priest (Santeria) were Hollywood horror movie hokum, I still had preconceived notions. The guy was a very camp white Dutchman, incredibly helpful and warm and instantly reversed all thoughts and fears I had. We had a very interesting morning together and he performed a ceremony preparing the powders for the shrines, all the time chatting away.”

The Axolotl Gallery will no doubt be feeling the positive effects of the blessed powders, which are said to bring about spiritual benefits, as Transmit is yet another successful addition to a list of unique and highly innovative installations in their New Town gallery. Transmit will run until the Saturday the 29th May.

mike inglis - the fall
All photography by Calum Ross.

Exploring the primitive need for belief systems in an increasingly confusing world, pills Culross based artist Mike Inglis presents Transmit: a series of stark, graphic and narrative based screen prints. Juxtaposing ancient and modern religious icons from voodoo rituals, catholic symbolism and contemporary graffiti, Transmit portrays and alternative moral code for a modern disconnected population.

Connecting all the pieces together is the omnipresent ‘spaceboy‘ character. A figurative symbol of disenfranchised youth, the ghost-like character appears introverted, presented in a variety of foetal, anti-social stances. Often depicted alone or with his equally disconnected female counterpart (based on the artist Kirsty Whiten) spaceboy hides inside his space helmet, shutting out the barrage of conflicting messages surrounding and consuming the world he inhabits.

mike inglis - triptych

“Spaceboy is very much a part of how I feel or have felt in my darker moments,” explains Inglis, “But he is also a cypher exploring how many people feel. Viewers really relate to the character and that can only be because they recognise or relate to him. Everything I make, all the characters, contain something of me but often it’s not a dominant emotion.”

mike inglis - cigar box shrine

But will the enigmatic Spaceboy ever reveal his true identity? “Spaceboy will never reveal his face, it’s not important how he looks, just how he feels and how we all relate to him. How he changes in relation to the spaces he inhabits and how he makes us think about our own relationships with places and people.”

In addition to his series of screen prints is Inglis’ intriguing Cigar Box Shrine, a mixed-media assemblage piece created out of found objects and pasted text. Pushing further the theme of contemporary graffiti icons as street culture replacements for their older religious counterparts, the box highlights societies fascination with religious artefacts and the interchangeable nature many of these faiths possess. The most curious items within the Shrine are the Pharmaceutical Bottles which Inglis had blessed by a bona-fide voodoo priest in Amsterdam.

mike inglis - pharmaceutical bottle

“The voodoo priest was a total revelation!” Inglis reminisces, “Although from my research I knew the true profile of the religion was very complex and most of the portrayals of Voodoo priest (Santeria) were Hollywood horror movie hokum, I still had preconceived notions. The guy was a very camp white Dutchman, incredibly helpful and warm and instantly reversed all thoughts and fears I had. We had a very interesting morning together and he performed a ceremony preparing the powders for the shrines, all the time chatting away.”

The Axolotl Gallery will no doubt be feeling the positive effects of the blessed powders, which are said to bring about spiritual benefits, as Transmit is yet another successful addition to a list of unique and highly innovative installations in their New Town gallery. Transmit will run until the Saturday the 29th May.

peggysue by kellie black
Illustration of Peggy Sue by Kellie Black.

I arrive by bike as usual to meet the three members of Peggy Sue at Spitalfields Market. Rosa got lost on hers and didn’t make their 6Music interview earlier in the day, recipe which handily alerted me to the fact that it is Katy’s 24th birthday today, patient as well as the official launch of their new album Fossils and Other Phantoms. I wonder if their plan to go bowling in Brick Lane has come off, information pills but it turns out the bowling alley was closed and they had to make do with chucking oranges at Lucozade bottles in the Old Truman Brewery instead. After their launch gig at Rough Trade East the band plan to head over to the Scala to enjoy the scuzzy sounds of Mount Eerie.

Even though Peggy Sue have been around for a few years they were only signed to Wichita at the end of 2009. Despite this, Katy, Rosa and Olly began recording their album over a three week period in New York last year. Producer Alex Newport – who has worked with the likes of Does it Offend You, Yeah? – first discovered the girls a couple of years ago at SXSW and he was joined by John Askew, better known as a producer of trance music, but who has also worked with The Dodos. They worked on the album in the studio at night and it was really intense. “But we wanted to do as much as possible,” says Rosa, “plus we like to work really hard.”

peggysue by kellie black
Illustration of Rosa by Kellie Black.

Many of the songs were written in New York, but they came back to the UK to overdub the tracks with friends. Peggy Sue seem quite amused that some of their session musicians belong to bands much more famous than theirs, with a horn section provided by members of Arcade Fire and TV on the Radio.

With the album finished a little over a year ago I wonder if they aren’t perhaps a bit frustrated with the long wait for it to come out officially?
Katy: For a little while we were, but then you just realise that you have to work around other people’s schedules. We’ve only been playing a few new songs on tour so we’re not sick of them yet. We haven’t run out of emotion!
Rosa: We purposefully held back some songs till the album came out.
Olly: And we’ve written some new songs since the album was made.
How pushy is your record company?
Katy: No one tells us what to do.
That I can well believe….

Quite a few reviewers seem to have identified a strong theme of heartbreak running through the album. How would you respond to this?
Katy: Some songs are about breaking other people’s hearts
Rosa: …or endings in general. They can be morose when taken as a whole body of work, but not when taken individually.
Katy: Some people are just ignoring the other themes. We take it in turns to do lead vocals so it’s not like they’re all about just one break up. I don’t know if I want to be known as horribly bruised by love…
Rosa: I don’t remember the last time I had my heart broken!

peggysue by kellie black
Illustration of Olly by Kellie Black.

They used to be Peggy Sue and the Pirates. What happened to the Pirates?
Katy: When Rosa and I started the band we were both studying at Sussex and it was just for fun. I was doing American Studies and Film. I’m still supposed to go to the US for a year as part of my course, but I keep deferring…
Olly: I was studying Popular Music at Goldsmiths, but I didn’t finish either. I prefer to actually make music.
Rosa: I was studying English Literature, but I’m the only one who finished my degree. We started getting serious two years ago when Olly joined. It made sense to drop the Pirates bit when we stopped being a duo and our music became less folky.

How did you girls hook up in the first place?
Katy: I was offered a gig as a solo artist and I asked Rosa to help out.
Rosa: I was so nervous I vomited into my mouth when I went on stage.
Katy: It was really nice to do it together. It was how you should start a band – it didn’t work when I tried to find people I didn’t know; a band needs to be built on good relationships.

How did you guys find Olly?
Olly: I went to Brighton and saw Peggy Sue playing as part of Brighton Festival – I fell in love with them immediately and became a bit of a groupie. I met them again at SXSW, and saw them play in my hometown of Margate.
Rosa: You were one of our favourite fans; we used to give you CDs for free!
Katy: We made him come and watch The Dodos so he could see what we wanted with the drum section and he liked it.
Olly: To start with I didn’t think it was a good idea for the girls to get a drummer because I preferred them without… but then I kept sending lots of pestering emails…
Eventually he organised his own audition in one of the practice rooms at his college, at which point Katy and Rosa realised he could be a great asset. Does he mind being the only man in a band with such strong women?
Olly: Not really, I’m half a girl
Rosa: …and I’m half a boy.

peggysue by kellie black
Illustration of Katy by Kellie Black.

Olly learnt drums at secondary school, Rosa learnt piano and Katy learnt a bit of piano and some clarinet. But as a band they play whatever they can lay their hands on, with great aplomb. How do they pick up all these different instruments so easily?
Katy: There’s something about teaching yourself that means you only play what you can but you play it really well. It’s nice to be self taught as it means there are no rules.
Rosa: I understand enough about how to put music together but I can’t read music very well. It means you discover new things.
Katy: I understand music in quite a mathematical way but I find it hard to translate that into playing a guitar. They are two separate things in my head
Which are your favourite instruments?
Katy: I like my electric guitar.
Rosa: For me it always goes back to the guitar. But when I try a new instrument I end up writing new melodies as I learn how to play it, which means that every song turns out differently.
Olly: I never imagined I would play the guitar but I ended up strumming a few notes on some of the songs, and now I’ve built a bucket base too…
Rosa: …it sounded in tune until we started recording…

I loved the video for single Watchman. How did you get that made?
Katy: We asked illustrator Betsy Dadd to make the video when she was going out with my best mate.
I like the humping angels. What guidance did you give?
Katy: I said she could tap into whatever themes she wanted. We don’t often make videos.
Rosa: In a perfect world we’d have one for every song
Some of the imagery would be great for putting onto merchandise.
Katy: I’d like to put some of the stills onto a t-shirt. We’ve got only one design going at the moment. It features a wolf dancing with a skeleton.

At the time of interviewing the band Katy had just been offered a place at Berkeley in California, but fear not she won’t be going unless she can put her heart and soul into it. Which means we’ve lucked out instead. For now you can catch that great big heart and soul at a whole pile of festivals this summer. Including Dot to Dot and the Park Stage at Glastonbury on Saturday morning.

You can read my review of Fossils and Other Phantoms here.


Illustration by Leinz

The above scene probably wasn’t too far off how things looked during those first few days after the election, order as talks between Nick Clegg and David Cameron opened and a five-day negotiation period ensued. This image is just one of the many political slogans designed by an array of artists, which were projected onto a number of London landmarks during the election campaign.

Billbored’ – launched by POLLOCKS – is an art collective, spearheaded by artist and curator Josef Valentino, who described the project as a viral art initiative aiming to empower people: “The political parties aren’t inspiring us, so we will have to inspire ourselves.”

Featuring initial designs from several artists including M.I.A, Pete Fowler, The Futureheads, Anthony Burrill and Robert Montgomery, this creative venture aimed to encourage and empower general members of the public to develop their own ‘Billbored’ campaigns, showing their personal vision for change.


Illustration by M.I.A.; photography by Cakehead Loves Evil

The submitted visuals were then projected onto the front of key London buildings and structures, including the Tate Modern and Canary Wharf during and after the election period by a team of guerrilla projectionists, gathering support and encouraging further online activity. They were also made available via social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

As David Cameron warms up the bed at No 10 and the campaign draws to a close, we take a look at some of the most eye-catching projections during the election period, providing us with an alternative take on UK politics…


Illustrated by Leinz


Visual by The Futureheads


Visual by Sarah Maple


Visual by Riot Art


Illustration by Neville Brody


Visual by Konrad Wyrebek


Illustration by Pete Fowler; photography by Cakehead Loves Evil


Illustration by Josef Valentino; photography by Cakehead Loves Evil


Visual by Hayden Kays; photography by Cakehead Loves Evil


Illustration by Dave Anderson; photography by Cakehead Loves Evil

British fashion is normally typified by its quirky features, salve but Samantha Cole of Samantha Cole London is a stand out star in her own rights. Having presented her collection Identity III: A New Dawn at the London Fashion Week On|Off Presents… show and winning Best Womenswear Designer at New York Fashion Week for Spring Summer 2009, visit this site she is truly a force to be reckoned with. In an interview with her, I got to know the inner workings of her creative mind, and pick her brains (er…not literally) about her unique style.

Your Autumn/Winter 2010 collection, Identity III: A New Dawn, made heavy use of your smocking technique, giving the fabrics a beautiful texture. Do you think that this is a key element in the feeling of “coming out, coming through, a fresh start and something new” that you had?

The feeling of coming out and coming through was more from a cleansing point of view and starting over with a clean slate which, in its purest state, was emphasised through the use of white. It was a re-birth into something new that felt almost alien-like and surreal in approach, which can be seen from the styling images of the collection to further enhance this point. ?It is my love of structure, detail, texture and architecture that produced the smocking techniques inspired by the pyramids of Egypt used to create the textured feel to the collection.

Besides your smocking technique, there is an elegance and grace in your clothing, which is arguably difficult to find when using your unique and exaggerated silhouettes. How would you define the style your line exemplifies?

Thank you for that, it’s the first time my work and the words “elegance and grace” have been used in the same sentence. ?My style stems from a definitive point of view, very rarely subtle or subdued. It can be aggressive to further emphasis a point and for the most, be part fearless in its approach. This can be seen in more detail through the styling of my work, it goes beyond the garments to produce a complete overall look of my inspiration which, for the most part, is a combination of both fantasy and reality.

Your previous two collections Identity: A Journey of Self Discovery and Identity II: Warrior, as well as A New Dawn, both feature quite voluminous and textured aspects, especially in the tailored yet feminine qualities. Would you agree in saying that these techniques create an haute-couture element to your designs?

To some degree yes it does, I love detail and textures which does give that couture feel but still like to keep the silhouettes simple at the same time.
Your collections tend to only draw very little influence from modern trends. Every designer in the industry is unique, but do you feel that your collections, such as A New Dawn, allow you stand out like many designers before you, such as the late Alexander McQueen?
I don’t know that I stand out as such, but there are a plethora of creative minds doing similar things who are also unique in their approach. I just do what I want to do regardless of what’s going on around me. ?In regards to my influences, it’s really what I’m drawn to at that time. Though having said that, there is so much to pull from the past, which I find more interesting as a designer to do.

You worked on the design team at Burberry before your venture into your own label, leaving that uniquely British imprint on your designs. Do you feel that your designs exemplify what British fashion is all about?

British fashion for me has always been about creativity, individuality, eccentricity, rebellion and the freedom to explore your skills and talent to the fullest. It’s the complete and total abandonment that you can only get here in the UK, which is why I love this country so much and why it’s such a perfect fit for me. So in answer to your question, yes, I do believe that my designs exemplify what british fashion is all about.

Arguably, there is a lack of popularity among British brands in the market, with the exception of the likes of Burberry, and that consumers aren’t really aware of other labels. Do you feel that, as an award-winning British label, there is a need to promote the rebellious and eccentric natures? Do you feel that Samantha Cole London could be a potential front-runner in promoting these British natures?

I don’t look to what the industry wants, expects or requires. It’s not intentional to rebel or to be seen as different, and I’m personally so overwhelmed with the outpouring of so much commerciality, that I’m sometimes bored to tears. I’m not here to raise the flag or be a front runner but just to be me and express my thoughts and ideas through what I do. It’s why I got into the industry in the first place – I have something to say, it may be considered rebellious, but it’s just an opinion. Something I don’t go out of my way or ethos to express, and definitely wouldn’t, is consider myself a poster child or otherwise to what you call “British natures”….I’m just me, doing me.

With the head scratching, questions out of the way, I took it upon myself to ask Miss Cole a few quick fire questions:

Do you prefer sketching designs or actually constructing them?

Constructing them for me is the fun part, the first garment mostly sets the path for the rest of the collection and i never end up with what I sketched anyway, so it is sometimes a waste of my time

What do you like the most about designing your clothes?

Experimenting with textures and details

How would you define your personal style in three words?

Dark, understated, confused

What does fashion mean to you in three words?

Creativity, rebellion, individuality

What advice would you give to anyone who would like to follow in your footsteps and do fashion design?

I think if it is their dream and passion they should go for it. It will be stressful, tiring, exhausting, most days feel like an emotional rollercoaster and it can be disheartening but as long as they stay true to the dream and the passion they started with and are in it for the right reasons, then I say great!!…The fashion industry is an amazing place to be, and design is the hub of creativity.

You can see more of Samantha Cole’s collections on her website, and read our review of the On|Off Presents… show here.

Illustration by Katie Harnett

After attending the Susie Bubble talk at Sketchbook’s pop up shop, treat I headed to Kristin Knox’s book signing, sickness who coincidently is the magazine’s resident fashion editor. Held just a hop, hospital skip and jump away in the Material bookstore, the special event took place off Carnaby Street amid celebrations, music and elephants for the 50th anniversary of a street synonymous with style and cutting edge fashion.
 
Like everybody, I was shocked and saddened by the news of Alexander McQueen’s sudden death in February this year. Overwhelmingly successful, his collections reflected a passion for digital print combined with the natural world, with a heavy emphasis on colourful, unique patterning. His iconic designs and silhouettes have paraded down the catwalk for the last 15 years, with his spring/summer 2010 collection lauded by countless commentators as his best to date.
 
When Kristin Knox was approached by the publishers to write the biography she decided to write a tribute instead. ‘I wanted to focus on the fashion,’ she told me. Flattered to be asked to produce such a wonderful and poignant publication, the time-scale was tight. ‘I had to finish the book in around a month!’ Knox mentioned casually. Quite the challenge for anyone, but when I flicked through the carefully selected photos, chosen from a vast archive, she has quite clearly risen to the occasion and done the designer proud.


Illustration by Katie Harnett
 
The book is packed with over a hundred stunning images of McQueen creations, from his 1993 degree show (stylist Isabella blow bought the entire collection) to his posthumous show in Paris this year. With comments from journalists, stylists and influential figures and friends, it provides a visually stunning account of his designs and ideas.
 
With a demanding schedule revolving around sourcing photos and researching cultural fashion history for her new book, alongside updating her own website, Knox manages to make time for other interests. An Oxford classics graduate, she still dips into Latin texts in her spare time. ‘At university, I read fashion magazines as a hobby [and latin texts for study] and now it’s the other way around!’
 
Kristin, naturally wearing McQueen leggings, was very welcoming and happily posed for my slightly blurry photos- my iPhone came to the rescue after camera refused to spark into life. When I asked her why she decided to hold it at Material, it was the result of Butters (her cute Pomeranian) and the bookstores resident dog hitting it off! The event gave plenty of opportunity to browse the bookshop’s vast range of art, design and fashion literature.
 
Along with assistant fashion dog Butters, Kristin is responsible for The Clothes Whisperer website and is currently working on a new fashion book covering 50 different countries, due out in August. In the meantime, you can buy this lasting tribute here.  

Read our tribute, by ex McQueen intern Jonno Ovans, here; read Georgia Takacs’ examination of McQueen’s legacy here.

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One Response to “Alexander McQueen: Genius of a Generation Book Launch”

  1. Thanks so much for this lovely review guys! I wish that fabulous illustration could have been my author pic in the book! xxxx

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