An interview with Professor Eddie Chambers – re. his new book, ‘Black Artists in British Art: A History from 1950 to the Present’ (IB Tauris, 2014)

On 2nd July I had the privilege of interviewing the artist, curator and art historian Professor Eddie Chambers while he was here in the UK to launch and promote his new book, Black Artists in British Art: A History from 1950 to the Present (IB Tauris, 2014).

Photo by Stuart Whipps; Courtesy of the artist and Ikon.
Photograph of the installation African Icons (1987) by Eddie Chambers. Installation image, 2014. As Exciting As We Can Make It: Ikon in the 1980s. Photo: Stuart Whipps; Courtesy of the artist and Ikon.

We met at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, where his installation piece African Icons (1987) was on display as part of a retrospective of works by UK contemporary artists – titled, As Exciting as We Can Make it: Ikon in the 1980s (2 July — 31 August 2014).

The focus of our conversation was an exploration and critical appraisal of the extent to which black British artists have experienced marginalisation and exclusion as regards their place within the nation’s contemporary visual arts canon, using Eddie Chambers’ own experiences of creating and exhibiting work since the early 1980s as a point of departure.

Continue reading An interview with Professor Eddie Chambers – re. his new book, ‘Black Artists in British Art: A History from 1950 to the Present’ (IB Tauris, 2014)

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk – Barbican Art Gallery, London

'La Mariée' - wedding gown from the 2005 haute couture collection.
‘La Mariée’ – wedding gown from the 2005 haute couture collection.

“It’s not only the beauty of the person, but the beauty of the soul and the culture.” – Jean Paul Gaultier

Recently I went to see the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery, and was pleasantly surprised by all the dramatic tableaux created to showcase a diverse selection of his signature garments from catwalk collections over the decades dating back to the 1980s. As you might expect, outlandish corsets, sailor tops and Hollywood-inspired glamour gowns were all in evidence, and many of the thematically arranged galleries reflected aspects of the designer’s own quirky theatricality. Nevertheless, in amongst the more humorous and sexually provocative outfits were several outstanding art pieces – including an amazing fan-pleated chiffon wedding gown – titled ‘La Mariée’ – originally created for Gaultier’s 2005 ‘Tribute to Africa’ spring/summer haute couture collection, and some more unique and unusual corset-based garments made from unconventional materials such as strips of photographic negatives and fake crocodile skin…

A selection of costumes designed for stars like Madonna, Kylie and Grace Jones over the years were presented alongside film footage of the garments being worn in their performances, to give a better impression of how his work looked in motion…which also helped to give the (largely mannequin-based and photographic) displays more dynamism overall.

Gaultier’s numerous collaborations with world famous fashion photographers over the decades were presented in the form of framed photo stills from past magazine shoots – including a stunning larger-than-life-size photograph of Naomi Campbell (styled by Gaultier for Italian Vogue in 1988) showing her with a short-cropped hairstyle and jewellery arranged in homage to the Jazz-age dancer/chanteuse and international style icon Josephine Baker.

Photograph Italian Vogue, 1988
Naomi Campbell, styled as Josephine Baker (Vogue Italia, 1988). Photo by Peter Lindberg.
Photograph of the African-American dancer/chanteuse Josephine Baker.
Photograph of the Jazz-age African-American dancer/chanteuse Josephine Baker.