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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Carolyn Massey presents The Gentleman’s Code

Museum Of London 2009

Written by Becky Cope

TINSEL&TWINKLE_TRAFFIC_WARDENS

The London based duo Tinsel Edwards and Twinkle Troughton will be staging an event all day tomorrow (Thursday 29th) around London as part of their ‘ It Was The Best Of Times, mind It Was The Worst Of Times’ tour. Keep your eye out for a parking ticket on your car – you never know, viagra some lucky chosen few will contain a free signed mini screen print! Be sure to check out their work:http://www.tinseledwards.org/ and http://www.twinkletroughton.co.uk/.

WOOLIES

You’ve known each other since you were 9 years old – how long have work together creatively?

Edwards: We’ve worked together on lots of different creative projects over the years, rx we ran a little fanzine when we were about 10! There’s also the band we used to be in until recently and the record label we have set up.  When we were at college our art work was completely collaborative, we work separately now but often join forces for specific projects and to put on exhibitions.

Troughton: Tinsel has kind of said it all there. I think we are very much on the same wavelength work-wise and have been since we were 9. So ideas bounce off each other quite easily and i think it works really well to help us move things forward.

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Have you had formal training? How has this shaped how you work?

Edwards: We both went to art college in London, at the time it was really good to get regular feedback from tutors and students and that will have shaped the way we work in lots of ways. However we graduated in 2001 so it seems a while a go now! Now the way we work is shaped more so by our everyday lives and observations of our surroundings.

Troughton: It was quite funny because we went to separate art colleges, I went to Kingston which Tinsel was rejected from and Tinsel went to Goldsmiths which I was rejected from yet we ended up collaborating anyway and holding identical degree shows in each college. We had to go to each others crits and tutorials sometimes and so our work had quite a cheeky nature to it as it was a bit of an ‘up yours’ really, I think we still like to be playful in what we create together.

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How would you each describe your work individually and collaboratively?

Edwards: My work is a wide ranging commentary on all sorts of observations that I make in everyday life, I am interested in challenging and protesting about different things to promote and inspiring positive change.  I love the idea of Do-It-Yourself, and continually promote the idea of personal responsibility in my work.  I see my work as politically active, not because it references particular political events or current affairs, but because through my observations, questions, statements and slogans, I aim to instigate positive action and change on both an individual and wider level.  
The themes in my work vary widely, it can be an honest personal narrative, it can reference the everyday, or highlight social and cultural issues.  I often use humour to deal with these themes.

Troughton: I make work which is heavily influenced by Britain both now and as it was 2-300 hundred years ago. Up until recently my work was predominantly describing British quirks, questioning what we as Brits were modern day slaves to and using humour as a main tool to depict my ideas. While these elements are still running through my work it’s now got more political in many ways, I’m also questioning a lot of our cultural habits which actually stem back from a long time ago. I guess I’m looking at how on the surface everything changes yet underneath many things don’t change at all. 

Collaboratively: Both of our work stems from observation, and although in very different ways, the work is a response to life in Britain today.  The content and theme of each artist’s work is very different, but it stems from similar observations and concern. The approach is also similar, in that we both paint in bold colours and often use humour.

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Where does your inspiration come from? Childhood/training/location?

Edwards: Inspiration comes from all sorts of things, life in London is a massive influence, music and art, people’s attitudes and social observation.  Style and technique wise I love text and all things typographic, I love Pop art, big expressionist style painterly work, vintage graphic design.

Troughton: Inspiration comes from the media, newspapers mainly. I look at both snippets in the papers and the stories that dominate. Currently I am finding so much inspiration from more historical reading, both fiction and non-fiction. I’ve been reading Dickens and factual books about the Victorians and am basing a lot of research on historical reading combined with the scouring of newspapers each day. I also am inspired just by basic observation of day to day life. As an avid people watcher there is plenty of inspiration on the streets of London alone! Visually, I don’t have a list of artists who inspire me, that can pop up at any moment when visiting exhibitions. Just a small example: I got masses of inspiration recently from the historical collections at National Portrait Gallery but was also very inspired by the HUGE Maggie Thatcher painting by Marcus Harvey (although I had already done my Maggie painting I do need to point out haha!) so I think I take artistic inspiration from all over the place.

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Who are the artists that you most admire?

Edwards:There are soooo many artists I like for lots of different reasons! But if I had to name a couple I would say that I love Bob and Roberta Smith, because he is honest, challenging, funny, political and very frank and open.  And I really like Tracey Emin, also because I really admire her honesty and fearlessness.  I’ve always found her work very compelling.

Troughton: I guess my answer above answers some of this. Artists I really like though… I also love Tracey Emins work for very similar reasons to Tinsel. I love Jeff Koons’ work, especially his paintings which I personally just thought were out of this world, it’s always good to see work which leaves you feeling like you’ve got so much to aspire to! It makes you want to change and move things on and think bigger.

TINSEL3

How important is it to have a presence on the internet these days? Do you use Twitter and other social networking sites?

Edwards: I’m a bit reluctant to get sucked in to Twitter, and it took me a while to join Facebook!  But it is really important to have online presence, its a brilliant way to showcase your work and promote exhibitions, and to find out about other artists too.

Troughton: Urgh I am not too good at things like Twitter…I’m not sure people would want to follow my daily thoughts and actions like that. I don’t mind using those things as a platform to show artwork and to let people know about events, and I also don’t mind them for keeping in touch with friends old and new…but that’s about it…

What would your dream commission be?

Edwards: Erm!!! It would be really funny to be asked to do something for the Queen, or perhaps a bonkers old millionaire rock star, or a politician…. I would love to work on album covers for bands.  On a more serious note it would be absolutely amazing to be commissioned to do something like the fourth plinth, a big public commission which could be used as a platform to voice something really important and relevant to people’s lives.

Troughton: Dream commission?? Haha, yeah something for the Queen would be excellent. At the moment I think I would love to be commissioned to make a very large scale painting for a pubic space which was going to be used as a future insight to modern British life and our social issues. Something which freezes time to show future generations what life in Britain was like in the 2000s-2010s, showing both good and bad elements. 

How did you come up with the idea for your event this Thursday?

Edwards: The screenprint in the parking ticket bags is an image of a Woolworths empty shop-front, across the posters in the windows is written ‘It was the Best of Times It was the Worst of Times’.  The work is talking about how although recession can be very difficult it can also be a time for positive change and growth.  We thought that producing a mini print as a very large edition would help to promote that message.  Disguising each one as a parking ticket tied in quite well, when people find them although they might be initially a bit disappointed, what’s inside is actually a nice thing – some free art!
Our previous gallerist Stella Dore actually helped us to come up with a very initial version of the idea about two years ago. Because of the nature of our work, it is often confined to the gallery space, we wanted to do something which would take our work out of the gallery and to a wider audience.

Troughton: The Traffic Warden part of the idea did come from Steph at Stella Dore. We just didn’t know what to do with it back then. Then along the way little flashes of inspiration came to us, such as from reading Dickens. ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ is an opening line to one of his novels’ and both me and Tinsel felt that opening line was incredibly descriptive of modern life and was also a direct response to our own feelings about the recession. 

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Men designing womenswear is something that appears to dominate the fashion industry. We don’t know why, viagra 100mg but men are often able to create clothing for the opposite sex that oozes sex appeal and sassy beauty. Probably, hospital it’s down to the distance of being able to appreciate something that they are not, alongside the aesthete’s almost iconic hero-worship of the female form. Women designing menswear however, is not a similar occurrence, Menswear extraordinaire Carolyn Massey however is shaking up the status quo. With her creations gallivanting across Parisian runways and her third capsule collection hitting Topman stores, this lady knows a thing or two about how a man should dress; and it should be through wearing her pieces.

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Graduating from Royal College of Art four years ago, Massey is known for her attention to detail, tailoring and her menswear is branded as gentlemanly. The clothes are durable and investment-worthy, just like something your granddad would wear. During a recent talk entitled “The Gentleman’s Code”, as part of a fashion lecture series at The Museum of London, Massey discussed her interpretation and inspiration of the gentleman in the past and present.

Trawling through the archives of garment history, Massey accumulated an intense knowledge of how men used to dress from the turn of the century to the war and inter-war period. Bringing historical details back to contemporary design is no easy feat. Despite finding beautiful detailing on buttons and stitches, much of Massey’s research led her to conclude that things like personal designer touches (including errors) were maxims perhaps best left to the Victorians. Details such as hand-sewn embellishments would not be bothered with today on a grand scale. After all, our economy runs on a manufacturing basis, and there is unfortunately little swing for hand-stitching and “one-of-a-kind” designer details, despite the exquisiteness of entirely hand-sewn trousers.

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(Photography by Matt Bramford)

Instead of lock-stock reverting to historical design principles, Massey subtly attempts to alter impressions of menswear. Traditionally seen as distinctly “un-fashion”, there is an ongoing debate into whether menswear as a branch of the fashion industry even exists. As Massey persuasively argued, menswear changes less rapidly and more subtly than womenswear, and that this can be used to good cause. Menswear should therefore be durable and long-living. Men should buy a tailor blazer or suit or trousers, and keep them forever. What should be thrown out is our culture’s attitude of “throw-away-ability”, our IKEA spawn of buying something cheap because then we can replace it. Don’t get Massey started on Primark.

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Despite being influenced by dandy dressers of the past, who wore impeccably detailed and tailored pieces, Massey insists that the notion of the gentleman comes from within; stating during the talk that it’s an attitude and a style of life, not a 3 piece suit from Armani. Massey cannot create these items as a magic cure-all to transform the average gent into Oscar Wilde. Massey holds a great fascination for silhouettes and shapes; the pieces play within being eccentric but lightweight, vivacious but muted, sharp but comfy. Coding is important, and that’s why the military is highly prevalent in her work.

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Investigating old regulation army jackets and badging rules, Massey incorporated these touches into her own work. In the same way, functionality is a big deal for the boys; if they need a pocket – they want a pocket. Dappling in the ubiquitously difficult ‘man bag’ territory and Massey comes off strong, demonstrating functionality as key. What can’t this woman do?

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(photograph by Matt Bramford)

Carolyn Massey’s dip into the archives benefited menswear relevance greatly this season. Her SS10 collection was classic but contemporary, an increasingly hard balance to hit successfully. With the rise of metrosexuality and unisex brands, good old fashioned tough, eccentric, granddad clobber is hard to find. However, with designers like Massey taking the time to get into the mindset, clothing born from style’s past creates a functional contemporary gentlemen.

For more talks and events (FREE!) check out the Museum of London

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