Thursday 22 November 2012

Losing Face: George Morton-Clark

We are all victims of rape. 

Whether crucified for our religion, race – our mental proficiency or our physical imperfections – we all suffer under the gauntlet of a normative, mediatised culture where happiness is defined in terms of exclusion and status. To quote the artist George Morton-Clark,

Society has evolved a paranoid state of mind because of our ever-tightening freedoms.

In less polite words, a violence is perpetrated against all of us; our freedom violated every day as we find ourselves choking defencelessly on the fumes of advertiser bullshit, corrupting our nervous system and rewiring it to produce a deformed image of how we should look in the frame of a 21st century society. 

With Morton-Clark, I imagine witnessing a hysterical obliteration of the human form, like a timebomb has finally detonated under the searing schizophrenic pressures we bear in our day-to-day existence. What we have left are disconnected, discarded remnants of being – unintelligible and uncoordinated elements that no longer offer real meaning. The human figure has been aggressively deconstructed and reconstructed into an attractive mess of nothingness and absurdity - and yet these works deliver such wholesome truths.

His female subjects thus provide a metaphor for the products and objectified images of reality that deserve to be ruined and mutilated. There's an interesting, homophonic collision between 'porn' and 'pawn' here: we are essentially all puppets that have been duped, manipulated, misguided; quite simply lied to in a pornographic culture where women, amongst many other things, are packaged into salacious commodities which promise everything but deliver nothing. 

To violate our freedom is perhaps one of the most serious crimes against our humanity. Morton-Clark reacts with work which is highly evocative and emotional. We have been cruelly tamed into a way of thinking, and the only way to reacquire freedom is to bite back with all we have left: savage revenge; degenerate, animalistic anarchy in the face of misplaced glossy Chanel logos.  Our only hope is to rape the system that has raped humanity.

We are immersed in a world of sin, a limitless hell on earth where anything goes, like a society that has been necessarily reset to its raw default settings. All barriers are broken; we have faceless pigs looming over equally faceless and maimed women, portraits of women gagging on the artist's most graphic tint of vermilion. This is not the glorification of human mutilation. It is the necessary destruction of those illusions of beauty churned out by a consumer monster that are anything but attainable.

But what's even more unsettling here is the almost cartoonish feel to the mutilation, like an old episode from the Itchy & Scratchy Show - you laugh but you do so with a seed of discomfort, no matter how hilarious the antics. It's as if these paintings have been unconsciously created by a child who’s discovered Crayola for the first time and has proceeded to make an uncensored mess. Of course, it's a well-thought out and beautifully crafted mess by Mr. M-C, but the aesthetic nonetheless - and rather brilliantly - hints at a disturbing landscape for the future generations.

The innocence (dare I say cuteness) conjured by this way of working is of course undercut with the artist's aggressive mark-making. Through his raw use of collaging, the faces of his subjects often tend to have smiles plastered onto them, a nice touch which inevitably echoes our own indoctrination in a society which conditions us to act against our will and instincts. Elsewhere, GMC's faces are scratched out, destroyed - or his heads missing entirely.  We lose face, quite literally.

Check him out at:

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Sunday 21 October 2012

Into the Wild: Sons of Heroes SS13

Sons of Heroes roars back onto the contemporary menswear scene for SS13, bred from a wild and rebellious desire to be heard in those urban areas plagued by social and cultural deprivation. The summer collection is tinged with the striking visual presentation of David Bowie and his alter ego Ziggy Stardust, concocted with the political unrest of the 1980s and the potent sport influences of the time.

This collection is all about reinvention – last season for AW12 the label only teased the potential for mixed fabrics, most memorably in the form of what looked like an incurably cool hybrid between a structured classic Aertex shirt and an American varsity jacket. Mind blown.

 Creative Director Lee Sedman exploits that potential this season, tempering razor sharp tailored classics with aggressive, uncompromising leather body paneling. There is a real sense of British heritage bled through with an American adventurousness here, realised quite literally in the label’s inclusion of stars & stripes pieces.

 The same unexpected juxtapositions are also evident in the lookbook styling: we have casual vests teamed with drop crotched tweed tailored trousers; the classic aesthetic electrified into fashion forwardness by bold Ziggy Stardust lightning bolts cascading through jaggedly spliced panels. 

 But now let’s get to what the label is famous for: animal print. For SS13 the label’s untouchable luxury-grunge shows no sign of being tamed. Magnetic imagery featuring gnasher-bearing lions and death-stalking tigers in digitally printed garments are as present as ever – equally endearing as they are intimidating - which undoubtedly explains their mysteriously alluring appeal. This time Mr. Sedman adds Zebras to his list of taxonomy, drenched in acid pink dye for one look that ensures the collection stays faithful to the brand’s inherent punk influences.

With its signature style reminiscent of those (frankly exhausted) Givenchy Rottweilers, it’s hardly any shock that Sons of Heroes has become a more exclusive, niche alternative for celebrity stylists. The animal print bombers have been immensely popular with the urban music scene, particularly in the American market where the brand has already been donned by the likes of Rihanna, Justin Bieber, 2 Chainz, Trey Songz, and Wiz Khalifa to name a few. Not bad for a label that’s barely 5 seasons old.

 Super-talented photographer Harriet Turney returns this season shooting brutally confident looks from brooding-exuding model Ricki Hall. Harriet, who specialises in fashion portrait documentary, is clearly building quite a name for herself having already shot editorial brand content with Stussy, Adidas and Puma. She is currently working with some of the biggest names in graffiti.

Grow some balls and grab some clothes.

Sunday 30 September 2012

BAEL: Beautiful Monsters


The remanufactured bullshit of such labels in society - of those defacing constructions imposed upon human identity - are no longer important. 

At least not in the world of fine artist Michael Bell, who goes by the suitably mysterious and somewhat primordial pseudonym of "BAEL". Mr. Bael has wiped the slate clean of his figures; cleansed them of life's suffocating and compromising 'titles'. Instead, his subjects have regressed (or progressed?) to a collection of raw humanoids, naked in a world where gender, race, sexuality, religion no longer define humanity; where "purity" and "essence" of being finally have their meanings reinstated. 

Here the human body is stripped in favour of a brutally visceral exploration of deep human emotion. Initial impressions? Well, if I was totally honest I'd say that I can't stop seeing that terrifying Cyborg Ninja from the Metal Gear Solid franchise. It's that anthropomorphism, the confluence between animal and human which tinges these pieces with the horror of classic sci-fi monsters - those which, rather chillingly, have their essence bred in human biology.

In any case, these pieces are positively haunting and disturbing. The figures are like ethereal apparitions from a nightmare, projections of our most deeply repressed fears and anxieties. What intrigues me about these subjects is just how vivid they are despite such a crucial lack of physical information. At first sight they give the impression of being rendered through quick, rough etching marks in a similar vein to Egon Schiele - everything appears so suggestive and enigmatic. Yet despite being so puzzlingly minimal, these figures offer more emotional truth; have more substance and presence than a dense photorealistic representation of the human form.

While Bael has asserted his artistic determination to avoid making his viewers feel "comfortable" and "satisfied" (and I do indeed feel moderately freaked out when I consider his pieces for too long) - I still think there's something redemptive and liberating to be drawn from his figurative work. In their reductive starkness, these oddly feral creatures look to a Prelapsarian time (a future?), with human identity unspoiled by the pangs of contemporary society. No longer is physical aestheticism a fragile target for scrutiny and anxiety; now it serves as a mere vessel through which the artist can explore the greater importance of human emotion.

And through Bael's provocative use of vermilions, the nature of those emotions are pretty clear. His faces are suspiciously bloodied, with mouths pinned or scratched out that amplify the certain lack of human civilisation here. More and more we err on the side of animalism with Bael, his figures found lurking, stalking, crouching - generally looking threatening and diabolical. The monochrome offset only by the blood lines and fills truly exemplify these characters as possessing nothing but unbridled, fiery emotions: hot, aggressive sexuality; youthful angst and violence bubbling beneath the molten surface. 

The piece above, entitled 'Cons', is my favourite work from Bael. For me it encapsulates everything the artist is trying to articulate. Stained with the metaphorical blood on its hands, the figure appears like a new-born, caught in a existentialist moment of self-discovery and disgust at the revelation of its own being - of those base desires of human identity which come to define it more truthfully than any other. 

Don't kid yourself.

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Chloe Early: 9/11 in Disney Land

Now, in the normal way I would copy every other overzealously polite blogger and apologise for my delay in posting new material. No; I haven't been recently hospitalised and no, I haven't been occupied by a family bereavement. In any case, what I have to show you next is worth the wait. If you're like me and have an insatiable appetite for bittersweet art, then I present you with 9/11 debris decorated in a lush Garden of Eden:

At least that's what I see. Mind-fuck? And what a great one. The artist behind the brutal chaos is Chloe Early who, according to her blog, quite plainly and innocently "Paints Pictures". Clearly not as innocent as she professes. Early works with disconcerting yet gripping juxtapositions: exuberant and abundant nature framed by harsh and suspiciously posited airplane engines - callously discarded and reassembled in the aftermath of a mysterious tragedy. 

Everywhere you look there's an explosion of bold colour that suggests life and vitality and liberation, but it's always muddied by an undercurrent of violence bubbling beneath the surface, or by a triad of missiles delicately descending at the bottom of the artist's canvas. So while at first sight you may imagine Early's suspended figures to be falling in blissful oblivion, there's a more troubling ambiguity here. 

Her central subjects - of which there is usually a pair - seem frozen in time and space, locked in some dream-like fantasy which anaesthetises them to the barbarity inflicted upon them. As mentioned, these airplane turbines almost take on a new, diabolic identity in Early's contrived arrangement of them, as if to echo the sick trivialisation of tragedies like 9/11 by manic pop references in the media.

Early's religious undertones here are clear, but if these landscapes are indeed alluding to a spiritual realm, the question I ask myself is: Where are these figures going? Are they angels falling or ascending to Heaven? Are they infinitely and indefinitely spinning in space? Or perhaps they are being exhibited in the most explicit sense: innocent victims falling from an obliterated aircraft...

There are certainly sniffs of Micallef's 'Disney Torture Porn' aesthetic here (research it if you think I've coined that term out of clinical pervertedness). It's that concoction of flowery lightheartedness bled with the fumes of a morbid utopia that works so well. It transmits doubt into the viewer's eye; tips the prospect of escapism into a nihilistic post-apocalyptic world (and vice versa). 

Early is a master of decontextualising and recontextualising iconography, with a keen eye for subverting images of celebration; we have Micky Mouse mingled with bullet shells laced with roses, patterning a memorial that evokes the insanity of war's warped realities. In fact, in their ordered presentation and arrangement, these pieces have the seductive scent of glossy magazine covers, as if beneath the chaos lurks a subtly packaged symphony of false ideals.

Wake up and smell the debris.