Friday, June 26, 2015

Exhibition: Savage Beauty

A few weeks ago we saw Savage Beauty, a showcase of  some of the late Alexander McQueen's collections on display at the V&A museum in London.

McQueen is probably one of England's most renowned fashion designers, famed for his fierce creative edge and designs that broke boundaries, to say the least. This exhibition takes you on a journey through McQueen's life and work, leaving you with a strong sense of both his aesthetic and personal philosophy.

Me and Ed didn't really know what to expect from a fashion exhibition, and neither of us knew too much about the man himself, aside from the fact that he is remembered for some extravagant pieces. Nevertheless, we turned up with an open mind and couldn't have been more pleasantly surprised with what we found.

The exhibition spans a huge chunk of McQueen's (literally) glittering career, showcasing some of his most famous collections, which work well as a series but can easily stand alone as complete masterpieces. Even a first glance at some of his more modest designs makes it clear that he does not fit any of the restrictive connotations of the title 'fashion designer'.

His work, like that of many artists, is a testament to his lifelong pursuit of beauty and meaning, which he explores through unusual, often grotesque imagery. It becomes obvious that McQueen's personal battles, his fears, dreams and fantasies were all the fuel that inspired and were translated into these striking pieces.

What truly impressed me about the designs, aside from their sheer scale - which pushed them so far beyond the realm of fashion - was that no matter how far-fetched and sometimes disturbing the materials used are (feathers, shells, antlers, etc), McQueen retains a sense of beauty; all the components work together to create contemporary shapes that rest, frame or drape dynamically around the human body, each piece a display of stunning craftsmanship and skill.

More than just garments, each item in the collection is its own work of art, in which a struggle between the grotesque and the beautiful manifests itself. These pieces are further enhanced by eery visual and sound effects throughout (my compliments to lead curator Claire Wilcox) that make it a truly enchanting experience.

Savage Beauty works really well as a title as it sheds light on the contrast between light and dark, good and evil, weird and wonderful, that runs throughout McQueen's work, but that also exists somewhere deep within us all.

Read more about this on the V&A website

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