‘Pattern gives Pleasure’?

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In the first of our new series highlighting research in University of Brighton Design Archives, third year History of Art and Design student Lizzie Collinson reviews Elizabeth Wilhide’s book Pattern Design

Fig. 1

Fig. 1 Cover of Pattern Design with Anna Hayman’s ‘Palmprint’ pattern.

When one first looks at Pattern Design by Elizabeth Wilhide (Thames & Hudson, 2018), the use of Anna Hayman’s ‘Palmprint’ pattern on the cover (Fig. 1), gives a clue to the splendour inside. From the concise yet poetic introduction, Wilhide’s passion for patterns is evident, leaving a lasting impression on the reader as they continue on through this new publication. She notes patterns’ importance: ‘a pattern’s repeat may be so simple as a regular grid of evenly spaced dots, or as elaborate as a branching design whose diverse elements take time to tease out, where the play of foreground against background is as a complicated as a visual dance…Pattern gives pleasure’. As textile and pattern design is often an overlooked element of design history, her enthusiasm for this genre will undoubtedly influence her audience positively. Pattern Design will certainly interest social historians in addition to art historians, as Wilhide discusses the effects of industrialisation and mechanisation on wallpaper and textiles. The Industrial Revolution conjures images of soot-filled skies and mundane factory work, and so her recognition of the impact of improved technology on pattern production reveals an often overlooked side of this industrialisation.

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Fig. 2 Marianne Straub, 1972. From the Design Council Archive, University of Brighton Design Archives.

Wilhide draws on many collections, including the University of Brighton’s Design Archives (Figs. 2 and 3), in order to create an encyclopaedic guide of over 1,500 patterns, from eighteenth-century India, to modern day Cath Kidston.  Divided into five main chapters – ‘Flora’, ‘Fauna’, ‘Geometric’, ‘Pictorial’ and ‘Abstract’ – the reader, whether an academic or merely someone with an interest in pattern design, is able easily to locate and learn about whatever pattern they choose. The inclusion of non-Western techniques and patterns helps to deconstruct the Western-nature of art and design history discourse that many have become complacent to – the use of an eighteenth-century Sarasa Indian textile produced for the Japanese market is especially interesting, as normally the study of art history focuses on the West’s influence on the non-Western and vice versa, ignoring the interaction between distinctly different ‘non-Western’ nations and cultures.

Fig 3.

Fig. 3 Barbara Brown, 1973. From the Design Council Archive, University of Brighton Design Archives

In addition to specific styles, designs and techniques, art movements such as Art Nouveau and Chinoiserie are described, alongside relevant artists such as William Morris. As a result, Pattern Design is exceedingly accessible, choosing to focus on the skilful artistry and rich history, rather than using the theoretical  language that art and design books and journals tend to fall into to, consequently shrinking their possible audience. The effects of pattern design on societal systems and hierarchies do not go unnoticed by Wilhide. She commends women such as Enid Marx and Sarah Campbell for their works’ influence on contemporary design.

The thematic rather than chronological ordering allows comparisons to be made between the past and present; this approach is rather refreshing considering the chronological categorisation art and design historians are more than accustomed to, particularly in gallery and museum spaces. Pattern Design is, deliberately, primarily visual and neatly ordered so that one can dip in and out at leisure. Although it is clearly factual, it is a highly pleasurable read.

Elizabeth Wilhide’s Pattern Design was published by Thames & Hudson in 2018. Find out more about the University of Brighton Design Archives here.

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Fashioning a Jamaican Identity

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PhD student Elli Michaela Young introduces her research project

Fig 1.

Fig. 1 Barrington and Teresa Young, Whitfield Town, Kingston Jamaica, circa 1950. Photographer unknown.

Jamaicans have often engaged with fashion and textiles in complex ways in order to navigate their complex social landscape. Yet Jamaica’s contribution to global fashion and textile histories and to fashion has often been overlooked, and in some cases forgotten. My PhD project, entitled ‘Fashioning Jamaica 1950-1975’, seeks to uncover hidden histories in order to tell a story about the ways that fashion and textiles have been used in the construction of Jamaican identities, both internally and externally. Part of this looks at how Jamaicans used fashion to navigate their colonial landscape. Another element looks at how the Jamaican government used fashion and textiles to construct an identity for a global fashion market in postcolonial Jamaica. I have encountered numerous difficulties researching under-represented areas such as fashion and textiles in Jamaica, which has meant I have had to redesign my project. Documents relating to the industry have not been kept, documented or have been destroyed, both in Jamaica and outside, making it difficult to fully document their contribution to global fashion. This has resulted in one of my most important research activities becoming identifying and collecting photographs that relate Jamaican fashion and Jamaican designers. This is not always an easy task and particularly when those images are held in archives outside of the UK; either in Jamaica and North America, or stored in personal family photo albums.

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Fig. 2 Barrington Young, passport photograph, circa 1947.

For my project I am drawing on photography, oral histories, and life stories to help me tell the story of Jamaicans’ relationship with fashion. I was fortunate to have a father with an interest in photography and so have a collection of photographs that I have been able to use for my project. Photography was not easily accessible to many Jamaicans during the 1940s and 50s, but photography was an important part of constructing his identity. Many Jamaicans would often have their photographs taken in studios, but my father (figure 1) took photography out of the studio, carefully staging each image in specific locations. The only image I have of my father taken in a studio is his passport photograph (figure 2) taken when he was approximately 18 years of age. Barrington was not the only person in his family to use photography in this way. Figure 3 is of Barrington’s sister, Gloria Young, who was a freehand dressmaker and made all of her own clothes. She made the clothes she wears in this image. Freehand dressmaking was a popular practice in colonial Jamaica. It is a practice that allowed dressmakers creative license, allowing them to create individual one-off designs. An individuality that, for some Jamaicans, was an important part of constructing their identities. Figure 4 is of his sister Theresa, taken in the garden of the family home. The way Barrington and his sisters engaged with photography suggests they had an understanding of the power of photography in documenting their lives and controlling the way they were seen and would be remembered, particularly as these photographs are the only record of their lives during this period.

Fig 3.

Fig.3 Gloria Young, Kingston, Jamaica, circa 1950.

As a Design Star student, I have been fortunate to receive funding for research trips to Jamaica (both from Design Star and the Design History Society), which have allowed me to visit a number of archives in Jamaica. The National Library of Jamaica and The Gleaner Archive in Kingston have been especially important to my project. Researching in locations like Jamaica is a good experience: often you may not find what you are looking for, which can disappoint, but you will find material you didn’t expect that makes you think about your research in a very different way.  What I, as British researcher, thinks of as important is not necessarily viewed in the same way as those who are Jamaican and documenting their own history, a position that has forced me to rethink my approach and to rethink entire sections of my project. Researching in Jamaica has taught me to be open to challenges, to adapt and be willing to make changes to my research in order to allow Jamaicans to speak for themselves.

Fig 4

Fig.4 Theresa Young, Whitfield Town, Kingston, Jamaica, circa 1950.

Modernism on sea: a visit to Embassy Court

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BA (Hons) History of Art and Design student Graham Walton on a trip to Brighton’s Embassy Court

Fig 1.

Fig. 1 Embassy Court from the south east

Returning for our second year, I was pleased to hear that a course visit was planned to Modernist icon Embassy Court, a building I have always wanted to visit.

On arrival, we were shown into the foyer where an original mural has recently been repainted. This brightly-coloured mural is more or less the same as the original, painted when the building was new, but with odd additions such as the offshore Rampion Wind Farm, recently built off the Sussex coast.

Fig 2.

Fig. 2 The original mural in the entrance to Embassy Court.

We were given a very informative history and tour by one of the residents. The building was designed by the famous modernist architect Wells Coates and built in 1934- 35. This was a luxury block and rich and famous tenants rented flats at a high rent (rather than owning them). The flats employed a considerable number of servants, so owners could drive down from London and a liveried flunky open your door and take your bags to your flat, where a cocktail would await you. Illustrious tenants included Viscount Astor, Max Miller, Rex Harrison and Terence Rattigan.

Fig 3.

Fig. 3 The rear of the building.

The architecture reflects the thinking of Le Corbusier, with the use of reinforced concrete and strong horizontal lines. We were fortunate enough to be shown around one of the larger three-bed flats, which sat on the corner of the fifth floor. The owners had retained much of the original style, especially with the curved door where you enter the lounge although there was naturally a modern bathroom and kitchen. The owner explained some of the politics and problems affecting the building. After the Second World War the building continued to be a high class, luxury block, many of the flats were sold off to individual owners. The servants and the ground floor bank branch were lost and there were renovations in the 1960s. The freehold changed hands and the building was not well maintained, the leasehold association commissioned architects to upgrade the building and the expected cost was £4 million. Nothing happened to the building and it deteriorated. There was a protracted court case between the leaseholders and a company which owned many of the flats. Eventually leaseholders managed to get control of the block in 2003 and a new refurbishment plan was announced involving Sir Terence Conran. A survey showed that the building had deteriorated, originally the building had a communal hot water system, however the iron pipes encased in concrete rotted causing seepage through the concrete. New electrical heating systems were installed and the leaseholders had to pay a considerable amount of money to upgrade their flats.

Fig 4.

Fig. 4 An interior of a corner apartment.

According to the owner we met, currently the block is very well run and has a good contingency fund for maintenance. They had to keep the original Crittal metal windows (to comply with listed building requirements) and there is still much leakage through these windows especially in winter storms. We were taken to the top floor, where there was a store room with a fascinating pictorial history of the building and to the sundeck on the top floor. We were very fortunate in being able to visit this building on such a lovely sunny day and the view from the sundeck was magnificent. The thinking behind Embassy Court was that it was to resemble a luxury ocean liner and this concept is easily imagined from the sundeck.

I thoroughly enjoyed this visit and feel very privileged to be allowed to view one of the flats. Le Corbusier would have been very proud of this building!

Fig 5.

Fig. 5 Enjoying our visit.

Fig 6.

Fig. 6 Enjoying our visit.

Fig. 7

Fig. 7 Are we on an ocean liner?

Fig 8.

Fig. 8 Great views from Embassy Court towards Rampion Wind Farm

On Anni Albers (1899-1994): an exhibition at Tate Modern

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BA (Hons) History of Art & Design student Kitty Symington reports on a course visit to Tate Modern

This winter sees the Tate Modern holding an extensive exhibition through eleven rooms consisting of Albers’ work throughout her career, from her beginnings at the Bauhaus, to her experimental pictorial weavings, through to her metaphorical ideas about material and craft. It’s a well-deserved and beautiful commemoration to such a highly influential figure in the world of textile design and modern art, and the second year History of Art & Design students were lucky enough to visit it during our Modernism module. As we entered the first room of her stimulating exhibition we were immediately confronted with Anni Albers’ giant creature of a loom. As one of the leading innovators of the Bauhaus school of the early twentieth-century, she set out to combine the ancient technique of traditional hand weaving with the abstract language of Modern design.

Fig.1.

Fig.1. Anni Albers, Black White Yellow ,1926, re-woven 1965, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Joseph and Anni Albers Foundation, Tate.

A design of Albers’ that particularly interested me was one she first produced in her early Bauhaus career in 1926; it is the large wall hanging called Black White Yellow (fig.1). Here, Albers used only black, white and yellow threads, despite the appearance of multiple hues in the piece. This technique – one that she continued to use throughout her life – consisted of using different combinations of each of the colours on the warp and the weft of the loom to produce a complicated but complementary language of a variation of colours.

Albers’ initial watercolour drawings displayed in the exhibition allowed us to understand the development of her ideas: from the complex mathematical preparations on paper, through to the incredible finished products hung on the walls. Her work is, arguably, easier to appreciate once we are aware of her extensive processes; personally, I admired Black White Yellow more after considering the intellectual methods behind its alluring designs.

Fig 2.

Fig.2. Anni Albers, panel from Six Prayers, 1966-7, The Joseph and Anni Albers Foundation, The Jewish Museum, New York.

After Black White Yellow, Anni produced a considerable collection of intricate experimental weavings. We were shown a vast sensual array of colours, textures, materials, free-flowing patterns and extravagant techniques involving the play of light and transparency. A project that was exceptionally striking was a piece called Six Prayers  from 1966-7. The Tate describes it as Albers’ most ambitious pictorial weaving, both for its metaphorical emphasis and its technical advance. Albers was commissioned by the Jewish Museum in New York to create this memorial piece to the six million Jews that died in the Holocaust. We learned that the six panels represented the six million and that, as Albers herself was from a Jewish family, the commission must have struck deep with her (fig.2 shows one panel of six). The form of the panels visually takes on the form of Torah scrolls; the complex woven patterns of the threads sculpting the delicate appearance of Hebrew scripture in a sombre manner.

Fig 3.

Fig.3. Anni Albers, Intersecting, 1962, The Joseph and Anni Albers Foundation, New York, Tate Modern, London.

This piece illustrates the incredible affect that Albers’ designs have had on their viewers throughout the twentieth-century, and certainly the Tate’s glorifying exhibition of her career provokes such feelings today. All-in-all this exhibition was an inspirational one, and one that teased the senses; possibly the only drawback of the Tate was that we were unable to touch the beautiful textures with our grubby fingertips.

Anni Albers continues at Tate Modern until 27th January 2019.

“Fashion is not frivolous; it is a part of being alive today”

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PhD student Jenny Roberts on working on the V&A’s forthcoming Mary Quant show

Ever since studying dress history for my BA in History of Art and Design at the University of Brighton I have dreamt of working at the V&A in the Fashion and Textile department. Many years later, as a PhD student, I finally achieved this ambition as part of a funded internship courtesy of my AHRC funders, Design Star and University of Brighton. It was everything I had hoped for and more. 

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Fig. 1 Daily Mirror – Wednesday 17th March 1965, p.1

For six months I worked exclusively on researching and planning the Mary Quant exhibition, due to open on 6th April 2019. Jenny Lister, one of the exhibition’s curators, has been wanting to hold a Quant retrospective for many years. The previous lack of attention is astonishing considering her market presence from the mid 1960s to the late 1970s. Although the Museum of London held ‘Mary Quant’s London’ in 1973, a full assessment of her work is timely.  The V&A’s exhibition will trace the journey of the Mary Quant brand from her original shop to a worldwide market where her name featured on clothing, hosiery, hats, spectacle frames, umbrellas, jewellery and make-up homeware, home furnishings, carpets, paints and wallpapers, and beds. Mary Quant was even used to promote Hotpoint washing machines!

From the beginning of the exhibition process, the curators wanted to steer away from preconceptions of 1960s psychedelia and to articulate a more measured appraisal of Mary Quant’s work and output. It is this narrative which will surprise and interest visitors to the exhibition when it opens.

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Fig. 2 J. C. Penney’s Catalogue 1966

The Mary Quant business began as a single boutique in Chelsea, London in 1955, which had transformed into a worldwide brand by the mid-sixties. Quant recalled in her autobiography that: ‘It was utterly impossible…to envisage that within seven years the business would go well over the million mark and the clothes I was to design would be in 150 shops in Britain, 320 stores throughout America and also on sale in France, Italy, Switzerland, Kenya, South Africa, Australia, Canada and, in fact, in just about every country in the western world’.[1]

Fig 4.

Fig. 3 Wool Jersey dress V&A T.352-1974

In 1953 Mary Quant graduated with an Art Teacher’s Diploma from Goldsmiths College, where she met her future husband, Alexander Plunkett Greene.[2] Archie McNair, who made up the team, was a qualified lawyer and photographer and owned a café in Chelsea. His legal acumen was used to their advantage when negotiating branding deals. Together they invested £10,000, a substantial amount of money in 1955, opening a boutique shop in the Kings Road. Bazaar, as the shop was named, became renowned for its playful and amusing shop window displays and became a destination shop for a growing affluent younger market. Another Bazaar opened in Knightsbridge in 1957. In 1962 Mary Quant visited America and, as a result of this visit, she began considering mass production techniques in her designs. Her involvement with American department store J.C. Penney’s was marketed to the American audience emphasising Mary Quant’s pivotal role in ‘Swinging London’ at a time when London considered ‘cool’.

Fig 5.

Fig. 4 Mary Quant pictured wearing a jersey dress from her own collection at Buckingham Palace with her OBE award, 1966. © Getty Images

In 1963 Mary Quant launched her more affordable range under the label ‘The Ginger Group’. This range of clothing incorporated some of the mass production techniques she had learnt from her travels to America and was reflected in the design and the fabrics chosen. A film clip reveals Mary Quant’s thoughts on what she considered the time-consuming and expensive nature of haute couture. She felt that “clothes should be made by mass-production when we live in a mass-production age.”[1]There were multiple derivations of a design, like for example her ‘Banana Split’ dress made in a black jersey fabric.

These jersey dresses were easy to wear and care for, available in a rainbow of colours as well as variations of the original design. The success of the Mary Quant brand was equally due to her and Alexander’s imaginative and playful marketing as much as it was due to the circles in which they mixed. For example, before he became the Rolling Stones’ manager Andrew Loog Oldham was employed to dress Bazaar’s windows.[1] Crucially, whenever Mary Quant featured in articles or in public, she was dressed in her own designs. In 1966 Mary Quant received her OBE for services to the British fashion industry at Buckingham Palace. She was pictured in newspaper articles holding her award wearing one of her Ginger label jersey dresses. She implemented this marketing strategy even when advertising her collaborations with other manufacturers. In the advertisement for Mary Quant berets made by Kangol all the models wore jersey dresses from the Ginger Group label. Similarly, when her shoe range Quant Afoot was launched the models all wore her designs.

Fig. 5

Fig. 5 Advert for Mary Quant’s collaboration with Kangol

I started my V&A internship when the museum had just taken delivery of the Plunkett Greene archive, which included private papers, marketing material, Daisy Dolls, Daisy Dolls’ outfits, fashion photographs and garments worn by and designed by Mary Quant. The first few weeks were spent on cold, November days in the Cloth Workers Guild at the V&A’s Blythe House photographing, dating and cataloging the previously unseen contents of the archive. From there we moved on to creating boards documenting the items held by various institutions throughout the world.

These boards were an essential visible aid in the formulation of the story of the exhibition. Thematic boards were then created and once the ‘story’ had been agreed consideration moved onto the restrictions imposed by the physical layout of the exhibition space and the display cases. One of the first problems facing all curators staging an exhibition in the V&A’s fashion galleries, is navigating display cases and available space. Without giving anything away, I feel that what is sometimes considered a problematic space has actually lent itself to the narrative of Mary Quant’s journey, from a single boutique shop to global brand.

Fig 7

Fig. 6 Mary Quant and models at the Quant Afoot footwear collection launch, 1967 (© PA Prints 2008)

The whole process of designing the exhibition was extremely collaborative. The team presented their ideas on the direction of the exhibition’s narrative not only to colleagues within the V&A, but also to external practitioners and academics. These meetings were constructive, with warm exchanges of ideas and knowledge. At the same time, part of the ‘Mary Quant Team’, as we had become known, researched contextual images, advertisements, stockists and articles featuring the designer in the National Arts Library’s magazine collections. Unusually, the curators Jenny Lister and Stephanie Wood decided to announce an earlier than usual call-out for the exhibition as they wanted to include stories of the impact Mary Quant had had on her generation. In particular they wanted to hear from debutantes, who had been some of Mary Quant’s early clients as this market has been overlooked in previous Mary Quant narratives. But crucially the curators wanted to understand the impact of Mary Quant’s design brand whether clothes, make-up, tights, hats or interior furnishings. The range and extent of her designs were far-reaching, and markets opened up in America, Australia, Europe and China.

My experience taught me a great deal about how to plan and carry out exhibitions. The process is similar to the PhD journey in that to begin with there is an enormous amount of what seems disparate material, which needs to be sifted through to assist in the telling of a story. This material is then edited down to form a focused narrative. Unfortunately, my internship ended before I could get heavily involved in the design of the exhibition space. Even so, I am excited to see the finished exhibition, knowing that I played a tiny part in a long over-due appraisal of the work of a designer who was responsible for disseminating the ‘London Look’ around the British Isles and across the world.

The V&A Mary Quant exhibition opens Saturday 6thApril, 2019. The book that accompanies the exhibition, Mary Quant by Jenny Lister (London: V&A), will be published on 25th March 2019.

 

Bibliography

Beatrice Behlen, A Fashionable History of the King’s Road. London: Unicorn, 2017. Print.

Breward, Christopher, Fashioning London: Clothing and the Modern Metropolis. London: Berg, 2004. Print.

— David Gilbert and Jenny Lister (eds), Swinging Sixties.London: V&A Publications, 2006. Print.

Booker, Christopher, The Neophiliacs: Revolution in English Life in the Fifties and Sixties. London: London: Collins, 1992. Print

Buckley, Cheryl & Hazel Clark, Fashion and everyday life: London and New York. London: Bloomsbury, 2017. Print.

— and Hilary Fawcett, Fashioning the Feminine. Representation and Women’s Fashion from the Fin de Siecle to the Present. London:I.B.Tauris, 2002. Print.

Donnelly, Mark, Sixties Britain. London: Routledge 2005

Fogg, Marnie, Boutique: a ‘60s cultural phenomenon. London: Mitchell Beazley. Print.

Green, Felicity, “The mini-skirt makes its debut at Ascot….and it’s a winner”, Daily Mirror, 15 June 1966.

Kynaston, David, Austerity Britain 1945-51.London: Bloomsbury, 2007. Print.

McRobbie, Angela (ed.), Zoot Suits and Secondhand Dresses: Anthology of Fashion and Music. London: MacMillan. 1989.

Morris, Brian, An Introduction to Mary Quant’s London.London: London Museum, 1973.

O’Neill, Alistair, London – after a fashion. London: Reaktion Books Ltd, 2007. Print.

Quant, Mary. Quant by Quant: The Autobiography of Mary Quant. London: Headline, 2012

Wilson, Elizabeth, Adorned in dreams: fashion and modernity. London: Virago, 1985. Print

https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/introducing-mary-quant

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2096184/Mary-Quant-swing-60s-gave-iconic-bob-cut–hallelujah–invented-waterproof-mascara.html

https://artsandculture.google.com/exhibit/0QKSHn4SqTdrLw

 

 

[1]Donnelly, Mark, Sixties Britain. London: Routledge, 2005. Print. p.92

[1]https://youtu.be/cyLa5WZ8VO4Accessed 10.10.18

[1]Ibid Locations 675-678

[2]Ibid Location 90

Sepia Tint, Sepia Cloth

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BA (Hons) Fashion and Dress History student Olivia Terry on the allure of old photographs

Fig 1.

Fig.1: Found photograph that epitomises the mystery observed in old photos. Author’s collection.

There is something wildly intriguing about old photographs. A singular moment, caught by chance, is suddenly trapped in time, and is immortalized by the sepia tint that encases it. The people caught in the photographs go on to live their lives, but eventually fall victim to time like everyone else, and soon a lifetime has passed, and their memory has been forgotten by those around them. Their photograph is put away in a box, and begins to collect dust and soon fades with an aged yellow, and darkness surrounds the image. But suddenly, light and air overwhelm the photograph, and it has been rediscovered. I delight in this rediscovery; I find my inspiration in everyday people from the past, found in these images. 

Fig 2.

Fig.2: Olivia Terry. Young and Marry. C. 2018. Watercolour, pen, and colored pencil. 5.5 x 3.5 in. Brighton.

It all began when I was digging through my grandmother’s collection of books, when I found a dusty scrapbook hidden on the bottom left corner of her bookshelf. Inside was a collection of photos of her and her family dating back to her birth in 1940. A brunette baby girl held by smiling parents on one page, was replaced by a chubby toddler on the next. The further one progressed in the photo album, the older the child got, soon turning into a young woman. But what really held my interest were the tales behind each photograph, and the people that were frozen in them. My grandmother connected each photograph with some fragmented yarn of a story, but other times, when her memory failed her, I made ones up.    

Fig 3.

Fig. 3: Untitled. Author’s collection.

Before I knew it, I was looking beyond my family’s photographs, and discovered the treasures that lie in antiques stores. I was able to spend hours in them sifting through faded photographs of individuals, couples, families, pondering the mystery that lies behind their eyes, and the story they each possess. What were the events that preceded the photograph being taken? Who were they? Where were they headed after the picture was taken? It was these sorts of questions that fed my creative mind in game playing, story writing and art creating. Sepia tinted photographs of woman donning calico and bonnets led me to pretend I was a pioneer woman navigating her way through the vast wilderness by a nearby copper-colored creek. A hint of a smile could inspire an entire story. Their mystery has always been my muse.

Fig 4.

Fig. 4: Olivia Terry. Lost in Deep Thought. C. 2018. Watercolour and pen. 5.5 x 3.5 in. Brighton.

When I attended events at my high school in Boise, Idaho, I made a point to pass the framed senior portraits of 1917, and allow my mind to wander, and consider each person’s place at the school; their social hierarchy, what clubs they may have belonged to, and possible personality traits. I am fascinated by the unknown of each person, and delight in deciphering the hints present in photographs: the expression on their faces, the chosen objects featured, the settings, and most importantly, the clothing they wore.  

High collars, meticulously pleated skirts, and mutton-chop sleeves caught my attention like a snagged thread. I fell in love with the whole aesthetic of women in big skirts in colorless photos, and soon my inspiration in the photographs was found in something more tangible than just my thoughts, when I began to draw them. I loved the way my fingers felt when I drew the creases and folds of fabric, and how my mind produced romanticized thoughts when I gave the women rosy cheeks, bringing life to the original eeriness. I am able to imagine the bright, cheery nature behind silk taffeta evening gowns and I can fathom the darkness found in black silk-crepe mourning dresses. It is expressed through the intensity of my pen strokes, the colors I choose, and the amount of contrast between light and dark. Drawing their clothing inspires a connective feeling in me, and with each mark of my pen, I feel as if some bit of their mystery is solved.  

Fig 5.

Fig. 5: Untitled. Author’s collection.

Clothing is a powerful tool. Something as simple as a shade of black, a cut in style, or the placement of a patch, has the rare capability to communicate a profound amount about a person — their culture, their time period, their social status, their personality and interests, their religious beliefs, their nationality, their occupation — all without really muttering a word. It can bring life back into bygone stories, because it speaks so personally about the people who wore it. Putting the spotlight on clothing from the past, by studying and restoring it, is what I long to do. I get excited thinking about the way a person’s identity shows through their clothing through the choices made: the color palette, the social connotations, and how the materials varied depending on the resources available to that person. A person’s character shows through their clothing, whether they intend it to or not. Each garment has an individual narrative; and to comprehend that story means to consider everything from the inspiration, to the construction, to the context. Each part makes up a story I am dying to read.

Fig 6.

Fig. 6: Olivia Terry. a Change in Season. C. 2018. Acrylic, colored pencil, and ink. 16.75 x 23.25 in. Brighton.

There are so many narratives that go untold. Lifetimes pass by, and words and memories yellow like paper, and soon, not much can be said or remembered about a person. New stories take the spotlight over the old, until they too are replaced and stored away in old hat boxes and photo albums. But when an old photograph re-surfaces, there is nothing that provides greater insight into the lives of the people pictured than their attire. Because that’s the thing; there is a beauty in historical dress that remains true and constant. A beauty that cannot be muted by the dust it may have collected, or the decades that have passed. It says something deeply intimate about an individual. With the help of studying historical fashion, I want to uncover the stories packed away, and bring light to the ordinary people of years gone by, because quite often, their story is not ordinary at all.

Banksy in Mayfair

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BA (Hons) History of Art and Design student Sarahlouise Newman on the exhibition Banksy, Greatest Hits 2002-2008

Banksy 1

Figure 1.

In July, I was volunteering in London when I discovered there was a Banksy exhibition nearby at Lazinc Sackville, Mayfair.  The show, entitled Banksy, Greatest Hits 2002-2008 – a sly dig at the music industry and its cult of celebrity from the artist whose true identity is still unknown – showcased his work during that period. Looming overhead on a balcony as I entered the building, stood a mannequin in a tightened hoodie and fishing rod.  Not something you expect to see down a street in Mayfair. Could this be a physical interpretation of reeling people in by someone who is hidden?

Inside, the work was showcased in a formal art gallery setting, quite a contrast to the streets in which you normally find the originals.  The story behind this exhibition is that co-founder Steve Lazarides, met the anonymous artist in 1997 when he took his portrait for Sleaze Nation magazine. Soon after, Steve Lazarides became Banksy’s official photographer and gallerist, they stayed good friends and decided to create an exhibition of the work that they were linked on.

Banksy 2

Figure 2

Banksy is known for satirical street art, which has a dig at everything from politics and the monarchy to pollution and popular culture.  With that in mind, the first thing I noticed when I walked in was a wall-size picture of a child clutching a teddy bear in a war zone, while people film her, instead of helping her.  Everything from the facial expression, to the location, drew the viewer in and made me feel uncomfortable. It appeared to represent how we, as humans, sensationalise war. Something that Banksy has been said to be against.

Next to it was the popular two policeman kissing image. This street art first appeared in Brighton along with another called the ice cream bomb. This stencil has been turned into canvases and paintings, which can now be purchased worldwide, and the original is still on the outside wall of the Prince Albert pub, down by Brighton Station. Banksy was not only mocking the police with this stencil, but also mocking homophobic people. According to the press, the picture represents the fact that being gay was part of society and love is all that mattered.

Banksy 3

Figure 3

In the middle of the room was a statue of the Greek goddess Aphrodite, given a Banksy makeover as Chavphrodite. The statue had been given a blanket, a plaster on her face and a baseball cap; hiding her real beauty with materialistic possessions. Walking through the exhibition, the music of Massive Attack played quietly, perhaps another sly dig as the rumour that Banksy is, in fact, a member of the group has circulated since he became popular in the public sphere. The paintings were neatly hung on walls all on the two floors. There were the two grandmas knitting blankets with the words ‘thug life’ and ‘punk is not dead’ written into them, a popular stencil of the thug throwing flowers, monkeys with placards across their chests saying they will inherit the earth, Monet’s lily pads with a Tesco’s shopping trolley added in to make it look more like a pond in the local park and several Banksy rats.  There were so many good pieces it was hard to choose a few to write about.

The most notable was the girl with the balloon titled ‘There is Hope’.  This piece recently became news, in typical Banksy fashion. It was sold at auction in Sotheby’s for £860,000 and as the painting was removed from the wall, it began to shred itself. Now renamed ‘Love is in the Bin’, its estimated worth is over £1 million. However, Banksy has also admitted the stunt went wrong as the painting was meant to shred the artwork completely, not get three quarters of the way through the painting and stop (follow this link for the full video of the selling of the painting and the making of the “Shred the Love” frame).  This became one of the most memorable art sales ever recorded at Sotheby’s.

The exhibition has now closed its doors, but there is a possibility Banksy is working on something new for the gallery, according to their website.  The majority of the art work on exhibition could be bought and the proceeds went to a homeless charity in Bristol, Banksy’s home town. The exhibition was a very well thought-out retrospective, rather than an art installation like his Dismaland exhibition, which was also a sell-out.  Next time there is a Banksy exhibition or art installation on, I recommend going to it: Banksy creates art that makes you think. And, in his own words, “You may like it, you may hate it, you may not even care about it, but you will always remember it.”

Working with James Henry Green’s collection at Brighton Museum

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MA Curating Collections and Heritage student Lisa Hinkins on working at Brighton Museum

Fig 1.

Fig. 1. James Henry Green. 0010, Self, looking down valley. c.1920s. B&W photograph. James Henry Green Collection. Courtesy of Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove and the James Henry Green Charitable Trust.

My initial introduction to the James Henry Green Collection was whilst on a 12-week Work Force Development Placement in the World Art department of Brighton Museum & Art Gallery (BMAG). Once my placement ended in November 2017, I was asked to continue with the uploading of 1600 hi-resolution black and white photographic images onto Digital Asset Media, the public facing website which allows Royal Pavilion and Museum staff and the public to access digital images and information from the museum’s collections.

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Fig. 2. James Henry Green. 0317, Hkahku woman. c1920s. B&W photograph. James Henry Green Collection. Courtesy of Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove and the James Henry Green Charitable Trust.

James Henry Green (1893-1975) (Fig. 1) served as a recruitment officer for the Burma Rifles during 1918-1935, based mainly in the north of the country. Like many serving officers of the time he was also an amateur photographer, an entertaining pastime originally endorsed for military officers in India. One of the first noted texts for the use of photography in the compilation of archives of visual material for the extension of knowledge of Britain’s overseas territories was written in 1856 by the East India Company Surgeon John McCosh.  Green’s images and writing recorded the minority tribes and culture of northern Burma, before their lives completely disappeared (Fig.2).

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Fig. 3. Francis R Hinkins. Life’s Eventide. c1915. B&W photograph.

Green’s photographs piqued my interest, as I was researching and writing my degree dissertation based upon a book published in 1915, Romany Life: (experienced and observed during many years of friendly intercourse with Gypsies) written by my great, great-grandfather Frank Hinkins. His anthropological images and accompanying written observations detailed the rapidly disappearing nomadic culture of the English Romany Gypsies in the New Forest, Hampshire (Fig. 3). There appeared to be many similarities in these two men’s recordings, along with a sincerity to understand peoples and cultures different to their own.

During the summer I was invited to present a Bite Size talk at BMAG on anything in the collections that interested me. This gave me the opportunity to present a 30-minute PowerPoint talk in September in BMAG’s Museum Lab about the James Henry Green Collection. It was important that my talk was pitched correctly to a wider public, where there would be a mixture of art and design knowledge. Through my experience of working as a Gallery Explainer at BMAG, I understood that you must neither patronise nor underestimate your audience.

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Fig. 4. Two of four views of a South Australian aboriginal female (‘Ellen’ aged twenty-two) according to Huxley’s ‘photometric instructions, c1870. b/w photo. Photographer unknown. (RAI 2116, 2117).

Research included watching BBC2 documentary Burma with Simon Reeve, which gave a hard-hitting account of the continued terrible violence in the country, as well as touching on Burma’s history. I also referred to the book, Burma: Frontier Photographs 1918-1935, edited by Elizabeth Dell. The text gave invaluable understanding of Green’s photographic and written work. Helen Mears, Keeper of World Art at BMAG provided me with very useful background information to how the collection came to be held at the museum and I also referred to my own dissertation.

The basis of the talk was a series of images showing the spectrum of Green’s work. This led me into comparing a few of his images with Frank Hinkins’, as well as allowing me to discuss the use of photography as a means of recording the ‘Other.’ I spoke about how photographs circulated through newspapers and via postcards during the 1880s, became a vehicle for reinforcing racial stereotypes. I also touched on how the collection feeds into the World Art Gallery at BMAG and explained how to access the Collection on-line.

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Fig. 5. James Henry Green. 1556 A leg rower, Lake Inle. c1920s. B&W photograph. James Henry Green Collection. Courtesy of Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove and the James Henry Green Charitable Trust.

When writing the talk, it was imperative to me that the audience understood important issues such as Thomas Henry Huxley’s ‘photometric instructions,’ and theory of physical differences between groups of humans conceptualized as racial (Fig.4). Terms such as ‘subaltern’ and ‘taxonomic’ were either replaced or clearly explained. The worst thing you can do is distance your audience with the use of opaque academic language.

To accompany the talk, I brought in the book, Burma: Frontier Photographs 1918-1935 and a modern copy of Frank Hinkins’ book for the audience to peruse afterwards. It was a useful device for striking up conversations with people. My managers at BMAG gave positive feedback, informing me that audience questionnaires rated the talk, ‘Good,’ or ‘Amazing.’ The experience is something I’ve carried forward into my current studies on the MA Curating Collections and Heritage. I have also been asked to present another talk at BMAG in the new year, so will have fun delving further into the museum’s collections for inspiration.

Max Gill at Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft

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BA (Hons) History of Art and Design student Sally Lawrence on the exhibition Max Gill: Wonderground Man

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Figure 1: MacDonald Gill. Highways of Empire. 1927. Printed Poster. Private Collection. Authors own Photograph.

I recently had the pleasure of attending the private view of Max Gill: Wonderground Man at Ditchling Museum of Art+ Craft. I was instantly enthralled by the incredible work of MacDonald (Max) Gill (1884-1947). The cartographer, architect, letterer, decorative artist and illustrator is often overshadowed by both the remarkable work and scandalous behaviours of older brother Eric. But this exhibition clearly demonstrates that Max Gill deserves not only our attention but also our profound admiration and appreciation for capturing his world so beautifully and with a humour that is sometimes topical, but often timeless (see fig.2).

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Figure 2: MacDonald Gill. Detail of The Wonderground Map of London Town. 1913. Original Pen and Ink. Private Collection. Authors own Photograph.

Gill, famously, produced maps for the International Tea Market Expansion Board, the Empire Marketing Board and most memorably for the London Underground. My favourite was his 1923 creation Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (see figs. 3-4). This bold and vibrant yet incredibly detailed and intricate piece is a wonderful example of Gill’s exuberant style. It is so engaging that the map even includes a little message stating that ‘The Underground Railway Company would simply love to hear that by losing your train you did also lose your heart’. I most certainly did.

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Figure 3: MacDonald Gill. Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. 1923. Printed Poster. Private Collection. Authors own Photograph.

Gill’s work stretches far beyond map-making. He designed the General Post Office’s Greetings Telegram in 1937; featuring Edward VIII’s crest, which would have been used had he not abdicated. Gill designed numerous book covers and most notably he was commissioned by the Imperial War Graves Commission to design the lettering for all military headstones since WW1; as well the lettering for the Cenotaph.

Tucked away, intimately behind the main gallery’s feature wall, visitors can engage with a much more personal history (see fig.5). With examples of hand-me-down shoes, family photographs and even Gill’s earliest surviving map, produced for his brother Vernon (see fig. 6).

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Figure 4: MacDonald Gill. Detail of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. 1923. Printed Poster. Private Collection. Authors own Photograph.

Max Gill: Wonderground Man is a thought-provoking, interesting and exciting look into the life and works of Max Gill. It is stunningly beautiful and incredibly informative; featuring works that document key moments in twentieth century history. It was curated with love and passion by guest curators Caroline Walker (great niece of Max) and Angela and Andrew Johnston (Andrew is Edward Johnston’s grandson, Edward was father of Max’s second wife Priscilla). Much of the work featured in the exhibition was stored away impeccably well by Priscilla and was then inherited by Angela and Andrew Johnston. The show features numerous maps, architectural designs, graphic designs, personal artefacts and an Imperial War Grave Commission headstone. As well as completed works, visitors can also see some of Gill’s original plans for his most famous works.

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Figure 5: Display case Max Gill: Wonderground Man, Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft. 10/2018. Authors own Photograph.

 

I urge everyone to come and visit this incredible exhibition before it closes on 28th April 2019. Visitors can also see Changing Lives: Ditchling Artists in WW1, Wonder Craft- Local Makers for Christmas (until 1st January 2019) and Jane Pitt: Maunder Maps (from 5th January until 28th April 2019).

Fig. 6

Figure 6: Macdonald Gill. Letter to Vernon. Letter with pen, ink and watercolour map. Authors own Photograph.

Seminar Style

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In the latest in our series Seminar Style: sartorial snapshots from University of Brighton we report on trends spotted on the University’s campuses

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Eden Gasson

Who? Eden Gasson

Where? Outside Edward Street

Course? Photography

Clothes from? Jumpsuit – Collectif; jacket – Dolls kill, shoes – Primark

Style inspiration? 60s,70s, Bratz dolls, a rainbow version of my mum’s ’80s Goth look

Instagram? @edensadventure