The link between art and fashion has been explored in various exhibitions in the last few years all over the world and it is not rare at the moment to step into a museum and discover an event juxtaposing paintings or sculptures to fashion designs. Yet we haven't maybe seen too many exhibitions looking at this connection, but mainly focusing on wool and on knitwear by young and emerging designers.
The travelling event "The Art of Wool" does so in an interesting way: launched in partnership with The Woolmark Company, this exhibition features designers who took part in the International Woolmark Prize presented alongside Australian paintings that explore rural landscapes, bucolic and historical scenes, or prints of modern and abstract works.
The event is divided in different themes - Production and Romance, Pattern, Texture, and Artistry - presented via artworks by Sydney Long, Thomas Cooper, Blamire Young and Emily Kame Kngwarreye just to mention a few.
These pieces are displayed next to garments by Rahul Mishra, Alistair Trung, Christopher Esber, Dion Lee, Kym Ellery, Magdalena Velevska, Strateus.Carlucci and Chuyan.
But, as the travelling exhibition progresses, new pieces are added to highlight the evolution of the International Woolmark Prize: the latest garments to join in were outfits from the winner or the 2014/15 edition M Patmos as well as 2015/16 nominees Celeste Tesoriero, Taro Horiuchi and Etxeberria.
Despite some fahionistas may think a painting of a sheep may not share anything with a glamorous dress, looking at the patterns, geometries, three-dimensional elements and motifs, textures, techniques, shapes, silhouettes and colour palette of some of the designs and the artworks, it becomes extremely intriguing making certain comparisons between art and avant-garde fashion garments.
The colours in Matohu, Alpana and Neeraj and Co/Te's design seem for example to go well with Albert Irvin's "Discoverer" (1972), in the same way as the vertical graphic waves on Emily Kame Kngwarreye's painting may have been reinterpreted in the waving pattern on a design by Strateas.Carlucci, while the movement of the couds in H.A. Hanke's "Tarana Hills" (1945) is poetically replicated in round wool waves overlapping in Chuyan's dress and the nuances and tufted elements in Pankaj & Nidhi's design are evoked in Dick Watkins' "Rain at West Pymble" (1968).
The event is currently on at the Hamilton Art Gallery (Hamilton, Victoria, until 7th August 2016), but, between 2017 and 2018, it will move on to the Dubbo Regional Gallery, the Western Plains Cultural Centre, the Albury Library Museum, the National Wool Museum in Geelong, the Manning Regional Gallery in Taree and the Tamworth Regional Gallery.
Though "The Art of Wool" is a sponsored event and therefore has precise commercial aims, it still inspires a sort of visual conversation between two different mediums - art and fashion - and prompts visitors to ponder more about local resources that go from a natural product such as wool (and the infinite possibilities it offers...) to important collections of national art.
Indeed, in this exhibition while wool is elevated to art, fashion turns into a canvas, reminding visitors that respecting the environment and creating a more sustainable fashion industry may bridge the gap between farm and fashion and, who knows, it may even inspire us to reset the broken fashion clock to more natural rhythms or to try our hand at knitting like the girl in the Harlequin dress in S. Frémant Cheravier's painting.
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