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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

The Barclaycard Mercury Prize – A Preview!

Emma Barlow takes us through the line up of stellar nominees in this years' Mercury Prize ahead of tonight's glitzy awards bash at the Grosvenor House Hotel…

Written by Emma Barlow

[insert header by katie harnett]

This September London Fashion Week enters the courtyard of Somerset House for its third season. Over the next week Amelia’s Magazine will be previewing both the on and off schedules, medications ambulance naming the designers to firmly keep your eyes on.

For our first preview we have selected designers who have been showing solo for less than six seasons and have already caused quite a stir within the fashion industry.

Hannah Marshall

You may already be aware of Hannah Marshall’s darkly bold shapes without being aware that you are watching a Hannah Marshall in Florence and the Machine’s music video: The Drumming Song. As an introduction it does not prepare you for the exquisite inkiness of Marshall’s colour palate or embrace of the female figure her clothes propose.

Hannah Marshall by Naomi Law

Watching her s/s 2010 show in an old post office building in Holborn, advice was breathtaking. As the models stalked through the space, ailment the inky blue effervesced in the dim lighting. Marshall’s a/w 2010 named ‘An Army of Me’ was a continuation of stark cuts along the shoulders, waists enhanced or lost by the cut of jacket alongside bodycon dresses produced in luscious velvet.

Mary Katrantzou

Mary Katrantzou has been experimenting with the boundary pushing possibilities of digital print since her a/w show 2009. The occasional harshness of the prints are softened through Katrantzou’s application of the technique to silk.

The collections are a celebration of the decorative and her clothes are littered with references to the excess of the Baroque or the Rocco periods of art and architectural history.

Mary Katrantzou by Meeralee

However it would be a mistake to confuse these prints as a gimmick, Katrantzou’s interest spreads to the cut of the dress, producing a series of structural tailoring which serve embellish the texture of her designs from short frocks to elegant gowns. Amelia’s Magazine welcomes the break from the increasing dominance of minimalism.

Michael van der Ham

Michael Van Der Ham’s described his a/w 2010 collection of dresses as 3D collages, through which multiple fashion references were stated by an insatiable contrast of colours, fabrics and textures. During graduate season earlier this year his design influence could be felt across the catwalks. What will s/s 2011 bring for van der Haam?

Michael van der Ham by Lulu Biazus

Louise Gray

Central Saint Martins MA Graduate, Louise Gray was a recipient of Lulu Kennedy’s and Fashion East’s ever on the button talent for spotting innovative designers. Gray showed with Fashion East before staging solo presentations with the support of NewGen.

A Louise Gray exhibition begins life at London Fashion Week almost completely bare, before exploding in riotious colour as the exquisite detritus from her presentations fill the space. The clothes, a combination of traditional stitch and embroidery create intriguing collections.

Louise Gray by Jessica Stokes

Amelia’s Magazine’s are delighted by Gray’s decision to stage the collection on a catwalk at On|Off for s/s 2011.

David Koma and Holly Fulton

For s/s 2010 Holly Fulton and David Koma. will share a catwalk, Amelia’s Magazine have been watching Koma since his debut as Fashion Scout’s merit winner a year ago this September.

David Koma by Stuart Whitton

Holly Fulton first blasted onto the scene as part of Fashion East for two seasons, before launching her successful solo a/w 10 collection at London Fashion Week in February 2010. Fulton’s monochromatic colour palate was interspersed with a healthy dose of pop art.

Holly Fulton by Francesca Bourne

The clothes structure referenced the Fulton’s interest in off duty/on duty French daywear crossed with the elegance of Dr Zavargo. Amelia’s Magazine found ourselves bewitched by the bold graphic prints bordering on the illustrative that adorned the collection.

Fashion East

For ten incredible years Fashion East have been at the forefront of spotting and supporting graduates who develop into ‘the’ sought-after designers of our generation.

Heikki by Gemma Randall

This year’s crop are as delectable as ever as Lulu Kennedy introduces Saint Martins MA graduate Simone Rocha and fellow Royal College Graduates Felicity Brown and Heikki Salone.

The excitement of a Fashion East catwalk lies in their ability to reinvent what it is to be feminine and this season is no exception.

For a/w 2010 Heikki Salone presented the tomboy, dressed in black cobwebbed knitwear, that you would wear until it crumbles finished with DM boots. A look -potentially- for fans of Janey from MTV’s hit TV series Daria.

Felicity Brown and Simone Rocha by Gareth A Hopkins

Felicity Brown’s delectable designs are a lesson in vibrant romanticism, a feat not surprising considering her training at Alberta Ferretti, Loewe Lanvin and Mulberry.

In contrast Simone Rocha’s monochrome MA collection displayed structured modern cuts interspersed with a playful nod towards femininity by her inclusion of netted fuchsia headpieces.

Amelia’s Magazine wait with baited breath to see all of the aforementioned designers collections for s/s 2011.


Laura Marling, buy illustrated by Natasha Thompson

The nominees:
Biffy Clyro ‘Only Revolutions’
Villagers ‘Becoming A Jackal’
Corinne Bailey Rae ‘The Sea’
Mumford & Sons ‘Sigh No More’
Paul Weller ‘Wake Up The Nation’
Wild Beasts ‘Two Dancers’
Kit Downes Trio ‘Golden’
Laura Marling ‘I Speak Because I Can’
Dizzee Rascal ‘Tongue N’ Cheek’
Foals ‘Total Life Forever’
I Am Kloot ‘Sky At Night’
The xx ‘xx’ ? 

Beginning in 1992 during the height of Brit pop cool, the Mercury Prize still exists to champion the best of British music. Judged by a range of musicians, journalists and executive muso types, the winners get a massive cash prize and usually see their album sales soar. Unless of course, they are one of the unlucky ones who fall victim to the ‘Mercury curse’, which will see them become a distant musical memory. A fate suffered by last year’s winner Speech Debelle. Or ‘Who?’ as you might know her.  

As the twelve nominated acts gear up for Tuesday night’s/tonight’s awards Amelia’s Magazine run through the shortlisted nominees. As usual some are well known, legends the likes of the ‘Modfather’ himself — Paul Weller, some have burst onto the scene just this year such as the banjo-loving Mumford & Sons, and some are less well known such as experimental jazz outfit Kit Downes Trio.  


The xx, illustrated by Gareth A Hopkins

The xx and their debut album, the imaginatively named ‘xx’, are joint favourites along with Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Tongue N’ Cheek’. When you consider the young rapper has already claimed the prize once in 2003 for debut album ‘Boy in Da Corner’ it could be looking quite hopeful for the indie trio. The xx, infamous for their quiet unassuming indie anthems — a description that also fits the band’s demeanour – have enjoyed a brilliant first year. Winning fans on both sides of the Atlantic and among music stars and the public alike, they were perhaps a safe bet for a Mercury nomination. In fact much has been made of the rather impressive list of nominations this year. Important though the Mercury’s are to British music, there is usually criticism that the list is perhaps not representative enough, or trying to be too representative, or, that the judges are guilty of tokenism. 2010, however, sees one of the strongest line-ups of recent years. 


Mumford & Sons, illustrated by Natasha Thompson

Laura Marling and her beautiful second album ‘I Speak Because I Can’ will compete with boyfriend Marcus Mumford’s, of Mumford & Sons, debut ‘Sigh No More’. The boys have enjoyed a pretty meteoric rise to fame this year in contrast with Laura’s steady rise in popularity since she started winning over fans with her pretty folksy ditties as far back as 2007 — her album ‘Alas I Cannot Swim’ was shortlisted for the prize in 2008. And it could be argued that either Laura or the Mumfords would be deserving winners. After some thrilling performances at this summer’s festivals, 2010 really has seen folk rock re-enter the mainstream. 

Nominees Villagers and I Am Kloot also belong to the folksier side of British indie rock, the genre to which The Mercury’s remain the most faithful ever since the Brit pop days. Villagers enter the fray as total newbies with debut ‘Becoming A Jackal’. As beautiful as their songs are, eerie and driven by some powerful ‘80s pop influences, some critics argue that front man and chief songwriter Conor J O’Brien still has some scope for growth. I Am Kloot are definitely not newcomers; having come together from various bands in 200, Kloot are a mishmash of some of British music’s biggest names. Nominated album ‘Sky At Night’ was co-produced by former Mercury winner, Elbow front man, Guy Garvey.   

Villagers friends — Conor and co. have been touring with the Cumbrian group — Wild Beasts are next, with second album ‘Two Dancers’. It impressed fans and critics upon its release and is finding new fans all the time, possibly thanks to their sound belonging to a genre similar to a range of upcoming and forward thinking American outfits like Animal Collective, Yeasayer and Grizzly Bear


Biffy Clyro, illustrated by Natasha Thompson

Biffy Clyro
have been around for the best part of a decade but it is this year’s ‘Only Revolutions’ that made an impact on the Mercury shortlisters. Perhaps their increase in sales and fan base is largely down to the securing of admirers among the Radio 1 playlist compilers and consequently listeners, but their Scottish slant on stadium rock certainly appears to have taken off this year.  
 
Then to Corinne Bailey Rae’s moving second album ‘The Sea’, Rae admitted that many of the songs are about her late husband and the album would probably be up there among the favourites if the list of nominees was not as strong as it is. The follow-up to her million-selling eponymous first album ‘The Sea’ sees a shift from upbeat lounge-friendly soul to songs packing a whole lot more emotional punch and meaning, understandable after the tough couple of years that punctuated the recording of the two albums.  

Another Mercury act making a shift in styles between albums is, of course, Foals. Where 2008’s ‘Antidotes’ was all about bounding in with all guns blazing; guitars on the attack and punctuated chant-like vocals, 2010’s ‘Total Life Forever’ showcased another side of the Oxford five piece’s musical talents. This time round it is about quieter melodies, hushed voices and layers of instrumentation that gradually build into something really beautiful like in stand out track ‘Spanish Sahara’.  

Since going solo in the early 1990s Paul Weller has released an impressive ten albums, although always selling amazingly well none have particularly made much of an impact, apart from within the circles of his hardcore followers perhaps. His 2010 effort ‘Wake Up The Nation’, however, received some critical acclaim upon its release in April making the Modfather a deserving nominee for a Mercury. It’s the second time Weller has made the shortlist, 1993 album ‘Wild Wood’ made the cut in 1994 — the same year that saw M People controversially snatch the award from firm favourites Pulp. 


Kit Downs Trio, illustrated by Stéphanie Thieullent

And then to left-field nominees the Kit Downes Trio and their album ‘Golden’, perhaps proving that the Mercury’s can be guilty of a little tokenism after all? So maybe it was the case that someone on the panel felt the list was lacking an experimental jazz band, but actually the album is totally worthy of inclusion. Beautiful in its brave attempt to forge something different and new — it wouldn’t be that unusual for the Mercury’s if outsiders, the Trio, got the prize – unfortunately for them it could be the last we ever hear of them.   

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