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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Alex Box: Ugly Beautiful

Annroy Gallery, Kentish Town, London

Written by Becky Cope

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© Photography Rankin, Make Up Alex Box

Make-up is all too often considered to be merely a technique used to enhance natural attributes: from the day to day beauty-conscious girl on the street, or for flawless skin under stage spot lights. It is all about the pretty.

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© Photography Rankin, Make Up Alex Box

Not, however, for Alex Box, make-up and artist extraordinaire currently exhibiting a collaboration of images created with the photographer Rankin at the Annroy Gallery in Kentish Town. Testing and subverting the traditional conception of beauty and make-up, Box’s work is known for leading the pack in experimental beauty. Having played with performance and sculpture at Chelsea, and worked at i.D, Dazed & Confused, Another Magazine and V, her CV reads like a fashion leader to watch (with self-pronounced comparisons to Gareth Pugh). Launching a book (The Make-Up Artist) to coincide with the collection, Box’s star is most certainly on the rise.

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© Photography Rankin, Make Up Alex Box

The photography displayed in the show capture strange, haunted but eerily beautiful images of women. Through featuring alien-esque, exotic creatures, the collection interrogates our ideas of “normal” and “pretty”.

Make-up focuses heavily on full-painted faces, big bad sky scraping lashes and outlined lips. With black and white geishas sitting alongside faces spray-painted kaleidoscopic colours and golden sprayed hues, Box’s work questions what is beautiful.

The works ask what is traditionally accepted as pretty, whilst showing harrowing images of those mortals who are over-sunned, under-fed and suffering from a range of general diseases. These photographs question man’s mortality through the skeleton theme and joker lips evocative of Heath Ledger’s eponymous role.

This is a serious show; you can see the influence of her young Goth days in the mask-like quality of the make-up; that idea of putting on a face that represents an entire frame of mind or mood.

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© Photography Rankin, Make Up Alex Box

To counteract the seriousness, the show includes positive images of weird and wonderfully strange beauty; celebrating the foreign, the unique and the variety of types of beautiful. Aside from the obvious geisha references and plays on colour, there were alien creatures straight out of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory or a Tim Burton film.

With paisley printed blue and pink cheeks extending around the eyes, and delicate golden dotted freckles painted underneath batting lashes, these girls were pretty like something out of Japanese anime. One face was disco-punk-neon-rave, with a crazy combo of bright and vivid shades splashed like a spirograph across the face.

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© Photography Rankin, Make Up Alex Box

Box stated in an interview with Katie Shillingford that the accompanying exhibition book is a diary of beauty, reflecting different moods and day to day inspirations; the contrasting images of bright young things bordering on the cute with darker, sombre creatures perfectly captures the idea of a personal storyboard.

Box’s take on make-up and beauty is thoroughly refreshing and ultimately extremely important at the moment. Refusing to fit into the mould of a typical make-up artist, she combines her own art background with her current field of work, painting faces instead of improving them through ‘tricks’ of make-up. In a world dominated by debates surrounding beauty, the fashion industry, model sizes, skin bleaching, photo editing and advertising ploys, Box’s work refuses to pinpoint what beauty is, but instead highlights the many forms it may take.

The Exhibition finishes on the 22 November and is located at the following address:

Annroy Gallery
110-114 Grafton Street
Kentish Town,
London, NW5 4BA
United Kingdom

The book is available from Turnaround and at all good book stores

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