Art Loves Fashion & Fashion Loves Art – But Do They Really Get Along?

Art and fashion are intrinsically linked. The many levels of this relationship create a paradox. This attraction and repulsion of the pursuit of commodity, glamour and icons envelops our daily existence.

Concepts of glamour, the cult of celebrity, and fashion are heavily played out in the media, on television and on the big screen. This phenomenon is not new, with Andy Warhol’s Marilyns and Campbell Soup Cans making a complete observational statement about the nature of art and commodity; these debates have been around for decades. Even in today’s highly saturated culture, high street retailer Topshop has purchased paintings from artist, Stella Vine, for their t-shirt collection. With the likes of Kate Moss and Lily Allen designing their own collections, it’s a cultural overload, morphing our perceptions, judgements and ideologies. We are in the thick of it, just as much, if not more than four decades ago.

Art loves fashion and fashion loves art, but do they really get along? Spring Studios, a new gallery space in North London, offers a platform for experimental work across the fields of art, design and fashion. The curator has developed a new series of exhibitions that directly engage with this debate. The gallery’s programme regularly set these disciplines alongside fine art, which takes a broad cultural view. Spring Projects aims to present a coherent fusion and convergence of the contemporary by hosting exemplary practitioners across these fields. Contemporary artists and designers whose reference is popular culture in its broadest sense have energised a new discourse between the worlds of art, fashion and design, one defined less by subjects than by attitude. Spring Projects aims to push the dialogue between these fields a little further and provides a consistent commercial platform from which to highlight outstanding work.

The latest exhibition, Lip-gloss and Lacquer, opening this June will encourage a critical dialogue and fierce debate. Lip-gloss and Lacquer is an exhibition that investigates our pursuit of commodity, celebrity and fashion. The works in the show both critique and embrace glamour; images of women in the fashion industry; and materials and surfaces, which seduce, tantalise and reflect back on us. The exhibition explores the viewers’ response to seven artists and designers that explore aspirations of beauty and luxury.

The show is divided into two categories; artists who approach the topic on a formal level through the use of highly saturated materials; and artists whose work looks at these themes in a more figurative way, using the female image as a point of reference, often investigating the fashion industry.

Curator and Director, Andree Cooke, has selected a range of artists to explore these topics from recent graduates to more established. She comments, “With the programme this year, I wanted to do a show that did cross the various cultural boundaries. Lip-gloss and Lacquer includes a designer; two fashion photographers and four artists, some of whom are established while others are emerging. The exhibition includes various disciplines from painting, video installation through to sculpture pieces. The title, Lip-gloss and Lacquer, came by thinking about that fashion work that had an 80s feel about it, an era of lip-gloss and lacquer. The sound and rhythm of title stuck, when I asked artists to think about the show it was from the starting point of the title and then the investigation of our pursuit of commodity, celebrity and fashion and what that means in relation to that title.”

Lip-gloss and Lacquer is loosely curated around the show title, and is predominantly a response by the artists to their interpretation of the title and its themes. The exhibition comprises artists, designers and fashion photographers showing a collection of work which draws together product design, advertising and fine art photography, pop culture imagery, painting, installation and sculpture. Many of the works simultaneously combine a contemporary and retro 80s feeling.

Cooke continues, “Because we are a commercial gallery, in a way I didn’t want to curate this as a very tightly curated show like you might have in a public space. The idea is that artists’ work will be able to stand alone within that title and it cohesively works together aesthetically. It’s trying to fit together with brace, not trying to make everyone fit homogenously within the title. It’s different ways of viewing the scene. There are a lot of cross themes aesthetically and critically, at this stage its much more about people’s work standing alone in its own right.”

The world around us only continues to become more complex and self-obsessed. As consumers, we need space for debate and critical thought. There are many opposing views associated with this world; and frankly it’s a matter of perception. Cooke comments: “The zeitgeist has come and is on its way for a much broader approach to fashion and design and its inclusion in the fine art market and being taken more seriously as an art form in its own right. Everything becomes much more interesting when you give it a platform.” Let the debate begin.

Lip-gloss and Lacquer opened on 13 June 2008 and continued until 14 August 2008.

Cherie Federico