Monday, 3 March 2014

Blown Away! My experience of the Isabella Blow exhibition Fashion Galore!

I love going to museums and exhibitions to see first hand the workmanship of the pieces I admire. It's one of the last experiences I get to fully enjoy whilst in solitary frame of mind. I go to learn techniques, absorb the creativity and experience first hand the joy of physical experience...which is totally different to what can be learnt from photographs and books.

Photography was not allowed in the galleries, but I really was there...honest.

The exhibition was a collaborative effort between the current holder of the Isabella Blow Collection Daphne Guiness, via the Isabella Blow Foundation, Central St. Martins and Somerset Trust House.

Curators: Alistair O'Neill and Shonagh Groarke.

For me the exhibition felt intimate....almost claustrophobic in the way it was presented...and that wasn't just the huge volume of people and pieces in there, it was a feeling of presence. Even the smell of Isabella Blow and the sound of her conversation which was present in the galleries left me with the sentimental feeling that she had been behind me shoulder the whole time. Indeed I did not know Isabella Blow personally, but I did leave with a sense of her character and her mind as if I had been privy to it. And I also felt a sadness, a sense of loss, an understanding of the gap she left in those closest to her.

The first piece that resonated strongly with me was this:
The shadow of her silhouette on the wall, a promise of what was to come.

But the piece I had come to see was the lilac and black lace corset. I had seen it in books...but you can only really learn about a garment by looking at it, inside it, walking around it. Having a really good look at this corset first hand gave me great insight into it's visible construction...and that was worth the entry price alone.

I loved the way that the conservators had allowed marks of Isabella's wear and tear to remain on the garments. I think they nailed that. The story of Isabella's life made complete sense with the artifice of her life. Her use of fashion as armour to construct her own image. The sense of frivolity, fun loving and woeful disregard with which she treated her garments a comparison to the way she lived her life. I can imagine the drug fuelled abandon of the late 1990's in it's fantasy engorged fury...the crippling self consciousness when reality encroached upon the fantasy.

Beautiful and lonely it is to have come away with those sensations.

For more information on Isabella Blow and the foundation set up in her memory:

The Isabella Blow Foundation

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