Film-maker turned fashion designer Miles Aldridge has delivered seductive sirens silk-screened in an electrifying palette to the forefront of the fashion world for 15 years. Although beginning his artistic career in the studios of Central St Martins, his photographs are heavy with references to 1950s America, reminding of Stepford wives and the blinding lights of Hollywood.Aldridge’s process is far removed from the common practice of point and shoot fashion photography; whereas the latter might be dominated by the clothes, Aldridge’s works are meticulously planned. Narrative series of images develop through careful storyboarding, with the clothes chosen only as a supplementary addition. Location is key, with sets ranging from garish motel rooms to sophisticated Parisian restaurants, and props from squeaky rubber lilos to greasy fried eggs. Every element is pre-determined, each series criticising an aspect of contemporary culture – consumerism, wealth and loneliness – negative comments almost completely disguised by layers of neon lipstick and vain facade.
His women are fabricated characters: impeccably glamorous, impossibly vibrant creatures captured on analogue film for a bizarrely painterly, two-dimensional image. Furthering the hyperreal essence of this show is Aldridge’s use of colour and lighting – whether a porcelain-white nude or copper-skinned sunbather, fraught housewife or carefree femme fatale, his women are all consistently caught in exaggerated colour and deep contrast.
Adamant that his fantastical versions of the female form remain removed from the everyday, Aldridge chooses specifically not to work with well-known faces. One catwalk beauty does appear in Carousel however; Lily Cole bedecked with live butterflies, in a soft medieval-esque image – the polar opposite to his often unashamedly gaudy style.
Whilst the situations of Aldridge’s characters are endlessly varied, the women themselves remain at all times aesthetically perfect; elite versions of femininity. This impression of chauvinism is common to fashion photography, however in Aldridge’s works is driven simply by an utter obsession with women – evident by a back catalogue which is never graced by even the suggestion of a male presence. Whilst at times fashion photography can be criticised for this unrealistic representation of women, Aldridge’s work is inoffensive as it is not a brushed-up, glossier form of reality but a complete construct; his idealistic beauties living in an imagined world where Coca Cola is sipped from a cardboard cut-out and red paint bleeds onto chequered floors from a smashed ketchup bottle.
In 32 lithographic and silkscreen prints, Carousel utterly submerges its audience into the compellingly false and alluringly flawless, dreamlike world of Miles Aldridge. His works are uncanny cinematic fabrications saturated in grotesque decadence, ever masked by a deceptive curtain of kitsch femininity.
Miles Aldridge: Carousel, Brancolini Grimaldi until 18 May.
A further exhibition by Miles Aldridge will be at the gallery from 12 July until 28 September.
Miles Aldridge: I Only Want You to Love Me is published by Rizzoli this month, priced £46.50 and an exhibition of his work of the same name opens 10 July at Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA.
1. Miles Aldridge -The Ecstasy #2, Courtesy Brancolini Grimaldi.