Art meets fashion in the Alexander McQueen exhibition

Sarah Burton, creative director of Alexander McQueen, is something of a quiet iconoclast. Where some shout their nonconformity, Burton prefers to whisper; example, Process, a new exhibition which has just opened in London.

Held inside the vaulted space of the brand’s flagship on Old Bond Street, Process is a visual discussion of the collaborative nature of creativity, how it arises from a myriad of viewpoints and how female artists shape a unique story. For this project, which will be on display until June 21, Burton invited 12 international female artists to reinterpret a look from its Fall/Winter 2022 pre-collection. In addition to presenting a final work, each artist was invited to document their creative journey, which gave its title to the project.

“I wanted to engage in a new creative dialogue with the collection this season and see how the artists interpreted the work we were creating in the studio,” says Burton. “It has been very interesting to see how creativity has arisen from so many different perspectives, and the results have been varied and beautiful.”

Entirely free, each artist was free to choose the look or looks that spoke to him. Norwegian artist Ann Cathrin November Hoibo, for example, selected all the pink and red looks in the collection because, as she explains, “I wanted to create a warm and very feminine environment.

With the looks physically hanging in his studio, Hoibo created a giant tapestry inspired by the folds and shadows of clothing, and using the same materials – wool, cotton, polyfaille and satin. The finished work hangs from a bar of hard Perspex, emphasizing the softness of the weave.

“With so much male pressure in the world, it’s important to keep a soft heart. The Alexander McQueen looks inspire me this way, the soft, feminine interior with a harder cover for protection.

For Chilean sculptor Marcela Correa, the inspiration came from a canary-yellow, off-the-shoulder, flared-skirt corset dress with what Burton calls a “bust neckline.” Correa created two amorphous figures in the same bold color, constructed from a papier-mâché of resin, paper, magazine clippings and fiberglass, applied in slow, deliberate layers. To the strange curved shapes, Correa added faces, pasted from fragments, which speak of “absent faces and broken memories”.

Work by Chilean sculptor Marcela Correa for the Process exhibition.  Photo: Alexander McQueen

Interestingly, American artist Beverly Semmes chose the same dress, but her treatment couldn’t be more different. In perhaps the most visually arresting piece in the exhibition, Semmes has created an oversized velvet dress that flows to the floor.

As with much of her work, it’s about the portrayal of women in media, and a marigold yellow dress spills out of the velvet dress, which in turn becomes a pool of pink organza on the floor. On these waves of fabric rest a pair of shoes, a bag – both made from tape and paint – and even a dog.

As Semmes explains, the puppy was not part of the original plan. “While I was working, my dog ​​spent most of the day napping in and around the artwork. This led me to unearth a life-size replica of a Labrador retriever I bought there decades. With the gold chain of the clutch placed around his neck, he took to the pool like a natural.

American photographer Jackie Nickerson, meanwhile, chose an off-the-shoulder pencil dress in dark orange poly-faille, which she later photographed wearing.

In the resulting images, she and the dress are almost completely cloaked behind a shroud of seaweed and recycled materials.

With his work focused on nature and its pollution, Nickerson says his inspiration was twofold: Alexander McQueen’s love of nature and Burton’s description of his designs as “soft armor for women”.

“The materials I used are a reference to the sea and the challenges we face with marine pollution.”

Artwork by Jackie Nickerson.  Photo: Alexander McQueen.

American artist and model Guinevere Van Seenus based her work on a crushed silver polyfaille strapless corset dress. With the metallic fabric dress, Van Seenus wanted to capture the play of light on its surface.

The result is a series of small Polaroid photographs of Van Seenus wearing the dress and a garland of fairy lights. “I like the play of light that opens on the film, points of light, reflections, bursts of light that reveal everything. I work alone and try to befriend the accidents that happen in film and Polaroid. Manipulating the photographs as they were developed, Van Seenus added marks and dashes, as well as beads, carefully hand-stitched throughout the image.

American artist Guinevere Van Seenus based her work on a crushed silver polyfaille strapless corset dress.  Photo: Alexander McQueen

British artist Judas Companion, on the other hand, has based his many works on two oversized suits in electric blue. Made as a series of wearable ‘masks’, each is made from electric blue mohair knitted into a hood, onto which the artist has added facial elements, such as eyes and a mouth, using concrete, faux fur, plastic, ceramics and Paint.

While the masks act to obscure the face below, the grotesque features instead create a twisted new personality. Companion describes his work as “revolving around metamorphosis in the broadest sense. I paint, I make masks, I photograph and film myself visualizing transformation processes. I turn my inner world outward and make emotional turmoil visible.

Chinese painter and sculptor Bingyi, meanwhile, based her work on a corset dress with oversized silver metal hooks.

A paper dress by Bingyi.  Photo: Alexander McQueen

From these, she creates two new outfits: a wedding dress and a groom’s suit from ink drawings, linen, cotton and paper. Called The self-removing wedding dressthe artwork is about duality and ritual – signified by the wedding dress – and how we travel through life.

The paper-white dress was created to look like “a waterfall flowing from a woman’s body”, she explains, while the man’s suit is printed with Chinese love messages.

“We wanted the artists to have complete freedom to respond to gazes, creating bold and thought-provoking conversations with their works,” says Burton. “I hope viewers will be as inspired as we have all been by witnessing these creative processes.”

Updated: June 09, 2022, 03:29

!function(f,b,e,v,n,t,s) {if(f.fbq)return;n=f.fbq=function(){n.callMethod ? n.callMethod.apply(n,arguments):n.queue.push(arguments)}; if(!f._fbq)f._fbq=n;n.push=n;n.loaded=!0;n.version=’2.0′; n.tail=[];t=b.createElement(e);t.async=!0; t.src=v;s=b.getElementsByTagName(e)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(t,s)}(window, document,’script’, ‘https://connect.facebook.net/en_US/fbevents.js’); fbq(‘init’, ‘797427810752825’); fbq(‘track’, ‘PageView’);

Christopher S. Washington