IllustrEIGHT is a series of live art installations by eight up-and-coming artists, pill ed which has been set up against the walls of Topshop’s Oxford Circus and Manchester Arndale stores. The gallery exhibitions, see due to run until the 7th September, cost include an exclusive capsule collection of eight t-shirts inspired by each of the artists themselves. With art and fashion being my two favourite things, the event sounded too good to miss.
So I flip flop along to Topshop with my soon-to-be-obsolete student discount card burning a metaphorical hole in my soon-to-be-replaced pocket. Any hesitation about spending the hottest Saturday in recent British summer history in quite possibly the busiest shop in retail history somewhat assuaged by IllustrEIGHT’s canny guise as an art exhibition.
But first, in the spirit of journalistic veracity, a confession: my name is Arabella Gubay and I am a t-shirt phobic, who avoids, or at best, approaches this most casual of garb with extreme caution and lives instead in the t-shirt’s polar opposite, the Little Black Dress.
Naturally then, I’m cautious about critiquing IllustrEIGHT’s capsule collection of eight illustrated t-shirts. But, bolstered by the knowledge that the ubiquity of the slogan/illustrated/statement tee shows no sign of abating and willing to overcome my streetwear phobia, I go where I have not gone before: the Topshop jersey section.
From Fern Cotton’s plausibly Dairy Association sponsored Topshop ‘Love My Bones‘ t-shirt, to ingénue Alexa Chung’s monochrome ‘In the Deep End‘ Marc by Marc Jacobs tee, this is the season of the statement t-shirt. Funny, mind, that the statement of the most recent raft of tees is so uniformly ambiguous; eco warrior Katharine Hamnett’s iconic slogan tees seeming positively cavalier in their comparative certitude. ‘Stay Alive in ‘85′ they scream; “I think that ship has sailed” I retort.
But I digress, nestled at the back of Topshop’s jersey section lie IllustrEIGHT’s eight tees, while scattered around the cavernous store their correlative installations. I use the word ‘scattered’ lightly as it’s more like an advanced level egg hunt with (imperative) map provided. This though, is perhaps integral to the concept of IllustREIGHT, the exhibition drawing inspiration from the creative art collective Designersblock, whose raison d’être is exhibiting work in unusual, labyrinthine locations.
Having located Pomme Chan’s illustration on a plinth near Topshop’s Boutique section with the kind of sartorial homing instinct usually reserved for finding cheap as chips Jens Laugesen separates at designer sales, I make a bee line for Chan’s long line jersey tee emblazoned with gothic floral illustration.
All of the illustrations are exquisite. From Joe Wilson’s elaborate and painstakingly etched design on ethereal eau de nil tee, apparently inspired by Quantum Physics and Scientific exploration – whoa there, it’s way too early sub-atomics – to London-based Kerry Roper’s eye popping pink gnomic design on an oh so A/W ’08 purple tee. With Topshop true to populist retail form, there is truly something for everyone.
My only criticism is the tees themselves. Forget the sometime incompatibility of art and fashion, the rendering of eight ineffably beautiful illustrations on poorly cut viscose jersey tees seems to me the height of aburdity. Take Barcelona-based Alex Trochut’s whimsical necklace design on periwinkle blue t-shirt dress. The print reminiscent of Ricardo Tisci’s £3,750 ‘It’ necklace; the cut reminiscent of a straitjacket.
I’m tempted but with its batwing sleeves and heavily ruched seams the cut truly does preclude all but those most necessary movements; and I value my mobility. So with the foolproof dictum ‘fashion detail is style death’ ringing in my ears, I return Trochut’s beautiful tee to the rail, sadly surmising that this is, in fact, unwearable art. Brighton Art College graduate James Taylor’s graphic print tee with owl motif is perhaps the most successful overall. The plain white tee upon which the illustration is impressed allowing the print itself to make the statement, the cut and beautiful fit making this almost the perfect tee…but the fabric, oh dear the fabric.
And so my unexpected foray into Topshop’s more casual recesses sees me leave with two jersey pieces. The first, a Fair Trade 100% cotton tunic in ultraviolet and the second a Fair Trade Zip Front Tee in classic black. Perhaps the age-old equine idiom should be revised, you can lead a gal to the jersey section but you certainly can’t make her don viscose.
On Wednesday evening, help a handful of Amelia’s crew attended the Lee Moves East party to help celebrate the opening of a new Lee jeans showroom in Shoreditch. Arriving promptly on time, we helped ourselves to the drinks and then had a look around the two-floor display. Approached by friendly greeters, these denim experts were able to show us the collection and give us coupons for a chance to win a free pair of jeans. Unfortunately, none of us walked away with any.
There was a nice variety in the collection, but it lacked anything extraordinary or unexpected. It was your traditional all-American Lee style, with plenty of plaid button-ups, denim, graphic tees and studded leather jackets(which happened to be my personal favorite).
As the evening continued, the crowds gathered and the party was in full swing. There was an abundance of tasty hors d’oeuvres and drinks for everyone to enjoy while we mingled and satisfied our appetites. Live models and a DJ added to the atmosphere, with Pete and the Pirates scheduled to perform, but before we had the chance to check them out, we were on our way to the next event. Luckily, Sarah was able to hang around a bit to get a listen. Check out the music section soon to read more.
Getting there proved a little difficult
Me and Dearbhaile arrived at Westbourne Park tube to the sound of carnival, site and we then waited for a good half an hour for various other people to arrive, treat which unfortunately they did not. This was to set a trend for most of the day. A testament to the fun of Notting Hill carnival however is that queuing and waiting are my two least favourite things – but despite all the delays during our day, adiposity I still had an amazing day.
On the way to the Diplo & Switch Barbecue I got to enjoy some staples for the true Notting Hill Carnival experience, such as people selling rum punch from a bucket they were carrying around, people offering the use of their toilets for the price of £5 and, of course, endlessly slow moving crowds of people. I have to say I was overjoyed to get out of the raucous and into the area, under a flyover, where the party was.
I then proceeded in spending the next few hours filling myself with beer, barbecue and music – and I couldn’t help but think that this is truly what bank holiday Mondays should be about. Especially when teamed with a line-up that made me child-like and girly with excitement.
Unfortunately we missed the fantastically titled Mumdance, and didn’t catch an awful lot of Toddla T. The latter of which would have perhaps been the high point of my day. His own productions of more accessible Dancehall seem to work so well in British clubs, as they can sit alongside most line-ups, yet still stand out as something totally unique. However, we didn’t see much of his set, so it doesn’t really matter.
By the time we did manage to get on the dancefloor, (well, it was more of a section of car park), we were treated to the ridiculous sounds of Rusko. Although his own stuff tends to annoy me, due to the fact that he just tends to make less interesting, re-hashes of his biggest tune Cockney Thug – his set was a fairly mixed bag. He even reached for some bassline, which was, err, fun?
After a rather squashed queuing for the bar, we then rejoined the crowd to see Heatwave’s set. This was perfect for a bit of late afternoon partying, it certainly got the crowd moving, and was the most carnival spirited set of the day – and perhaps because of this it served as a great warm up for Switch and Diplo’s sets.
I was excited to hear Switch and Diplo’s new dancehall project, but the reality was that whether Major Lazer made it on stage or not I really couldn’t tell you. It was more the case that anyone near the decks or the microphones could have a go. This would usually have ended in disaster, but it was great. Maybe I had been showing the free bar too much interest, but it just seemed like everybody was just genuinely thrilled to be there.
As with every good party, there was also a good after party – this time in the form of Durrr. Perhaps one of the most established club nights in London, I always have high hopes when queuing outside. It never disappoints, but then it never really thrills, perhaps because the majority there had work in the morning. The DJs are always good though, especially when they stick to disco, as opposed to opting for techno – but by the time the headliner Boys Noize came on I was far too tired to enjoy as much as it deserved to be enjoyed.
A few weeks back the lovely Nikki knocked on our door to have a word with Amelia. Alas Amelia was out, discount but that gave us a chance to have a chin wag with the talented illustrator (it was our lunch break!) Amongst tea and complaining about the lack of summery weather, hospital Nikki mentioned that she had an exhibition showing in the Islington Arts Factory. So Kate (earth editor) and myself being the eager beavers we are, decided to check it out the next day.
Despite Kate falling down some escalator stairs and me not knowing what directions to take from the station; we did eventually arrive at the gallery. We arrived just at the right time as the owner had just opened the doors, accompanied by a playful pug.
The building, converted from a church provides a cosy, oldsy feel which is perfect for the WAM (Women’s Art Movement) exhibition. WAM aims to ‘bring together the complexities of motivation, inspiration and continuity with the aim of providing a resource for information, advice, support and guidance’. With so many women artists the exhibition definitely feels eclectic.
Ofcourse we made a beeline for Nikki Pinder‘s work which is dark but playful and delightful at the same time. There is so much information to register, it makes your brain tick like clockwork.
Janice Fisher‘s vintage large scale pieces also caught my eye. A simple rendition of movement with an age-old feel reminded me of images on vintage post cards.
Ann Foster‘s pieces where Minnie Mouse looked distinctly 1950s, juxtaposed a cute kitch feel with expressive and modern strokes of paint in the background. Glitter dollar signs also popped up here and there. From the piece I could detect a cynicism towards consumer culture but also gender, performance and transgender were touched on. I liked the ideas behind the piece but wished she had done more to ‘doll up’ Minnie; making her a clearer symbol of an adult world of dress up, transvestites and materialism. The cuteness of minnie set against the dark current would have presented more of a discernible tension.
One of my favourite works was from Silvia Cristo whose collages on metal used a mixed medium of old photographs, words cut up from magazine, scribbles and paints used to create a dissolved, worn down effect. They looked and felt like snippets from the past, of encounters from a trip down memory lane.
After all that viewing, the friendly pug came back to say goodbye to us.
clearly not impressed!
The show is definitely a mixed bag with some innovative pieces but also some that feel slightly outdated. But it’s definitely worth a pit stop if you live near by and want a dose of varied art from different female perspectives.
On the most part dolls are fairly likeable. Admittedly, this some have been given a slightly sinister reputation, pills thanks mostly to Chucky. But, what can’t be argued with is how likeable tea is. And when served with cake the likeability factor goes off the scale. Last Thursday, as part of the ongoing retrospective of Viktor and Rolf, the Barbican with Viva Cake had a tea party celebrating these three joys.
Getting off the tube we played ‘Guess Who’s Going’, made a lot easier but the many takes on doll costumes tottering towards the Barbican. Following a toy soldier (there were a handful of guys in attendance) into the Garden Room, I felt like I had been catapulted back to the forties. The room, decked out by the Viva Cakes girls, was reminiscent of the mad-hatters tea party mixed with Gran’s best china. Even Alice (one girl had a costume inspired by the hallucinating blonde) was in attendance, but disappointingly no actual mad-hatter.
Alice and friends
It had been a long week of events for Team Amelia’s and the promise of tea had kept my stamina up to enjoy another event. But here I was at a tea party with no tea and no cake! Made worse by watching others tucking into the treats, whilst also seated. Jealously, I tore my eyes away from all the happy tea diners. What to do? Not having been too many tea parties I was unsure of the etiquette. Was I allowed to march on over to a table and nab a cake or did I have to wait it out?
A few boys enjoy cards and tea
Whilst pondering this potential faux-pas, relief came in the form of a trolley (dolly) piled high with cakes, oozing with cream, glowing from pink food colouring, devil flavoured, butter creamed and fruit topped. I tried to act the lady by not throwing myself at the cakes, after all this was a tea party, and daintliy picked up two delicious looking cupcakes. Then has luck would have more stools were brought out and we skipped (like I said acting like ladies) on over. Now if only the tea would arrive, we would have a tea party on our hands!
Getting dolled up.
We passed the time, spotting the doll costumes we liked the most and watching others having doll cheek make-up applied. Emma wandered over to the Lady Luck Rules Ok! little stall to buy a Russian doll personalised necklace for her friend who is obsessed with Russian Dolls as a birthday present. We all cooed over the necklace, which was a distraction from the wanting of tea. But oh, there is only so much waiting you can stand! Two hours is too long to wait for the promise of a cuppa. So, with the band playing we made our way out tea-less and dishevelled, as more dolled up ladies and a few gents made their way in.
I’ve heard really good things about Viva Cake tea parties, so I don’t want to be mean and I was told, there was a shortage of tea cups hence the tea hold up. But not having a cup of tea at a tea party is a bit of a let down. I mean, what are you supposed to do at tea party with no tea? Next time I’ll bring my own cup.
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- The Great Cake Escape
- Cakes for Japan: tips for fundraising from Miss Cakehead
- All The Fun Of The Fair!
- Vintage Tea Party, by Angel Adoree: Book Review