Sunday, September 16, 2018

ARTWORK OF JAPANESE MASTER PAINTER 'SHIMMERS' IN PARIS

The exceptional artwork of 18th-century Japanese artist Itō Jakuchū is being shown in Europe for the first time, at the Petit Palais in Paris, France, from Sept. 15 - Oct. 14.
Titled “The Colorful Realm of Living Beings”, the exhibition brings together 30 delicate scrolls that make up the masterpiece of the same name. The show spotlights Jakuchū’s original use of color as well as his “keen sense of observation and his highly personal worldview”, according to the curators.
Ito Jakuchu "Fowls". 1795.
 The Museum of the
 Imperial Collections, Tokyo.
The artist, who lived from 1716 to 1800, was admired during his lifetime for his “shimmering colors and ingenious pictorial language”, the curators add. He found inspiration in nature and portrayed flowers, fish and birds (such as peacocks and roosters) in flamboyant hues and settings.
“It’s a surprise when you see his work for the first time because you don’t expect such bright colors,” said Aya Ōta, head curator, representing The Museum of the Imperial Collections in Japan (located in the gardens of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo). 
Jakuchū, a committed Buddhist, donated these paintings on silk to the famed Shōkoku-ji Temple in Kyoto, where they were displayed in the main building during religious ceremonies.

They then became part of the Imperial Collection and were eventually bequeathed to the Japanese State. The scrolls are shown in Paris courtesy of the Imperial Household Agency of Japan.
During the 20th century, the public largely forgot about the works, however, as other artists became more noted. But in the past few years, Jakuchū has become the “object of serious scholarship, leading to a remarkable resurgence in his popularity,” say the curators.
The vibrant entrance to the exhibition.
“Jakuchū is highly important because he added to the currents and changed the style,” said Ōta in an interview, during the opening of the exhibition. “He inherited the traditions and built upon them.”
In 1999, restoration of the works began and lasted six years, highlighting Jakuchū’s skill in the use of the urazaishiki technique, in which certain areas of the back of the paintings are colored to increase of reduce the effect of the tint on the silk.
The exhibition gives a palpable sense of the Edo period in Japan from 1603 to 1867, when the arts flourished and certain artistic currents emerged, such as ukiyo-e (images of the floating world); this included vivid paintings of landscapes and of plant and animal life.
“The Colorful Realm of Living Beings” also emphasises Jakuchū’s place in the history of Japanese art.
“He’s really at the summit today, one of the biggest artists when you see what the critics write,” said Ōta. - Tasshon

Thursday, July 5, 2018

HAUTE COUTURE DESIGNERS TURN UP THE HEAT IN PARIS

Kithe Brewster design.
On some of the hottest days of the year so far, designers increased the temperature with intense originality, taking spectators both back in time and into the future during Paris Haute Couture week.
The uncommon venues used for the July 1-to-5 shows - such as the venerable American Cathedral in the city's chic 8th arrondissement - contributed to the heat, as lack of air conditioning and perhaps internal discomfort caused spectators to fan themselves, while admiring the clothing.
Brewster's "art of draping".
Still, Paris-based American designer Kithe Brewster utilised the church space to good effect for his Autumn-Winter 2018-19 collection, which drew inspiration from first-century Rome, with “emphasis on the art of draping”.
The show, his first couture event, began with a ballet piece featuring a pair of dancers leaping down the aisle against the backdrop of stained glass windows. As other dancers - muscular and male - joined them in the altar area, the models began strutting down the church “runway”, and one couldn’t help wondering what a regular congregation might have made of the show.
Several of the “romanesque” gowns might actually be seen again in church at weddings, with their striking fabrics of silk and wool crepe, adorned with sequins. Brewster employed a range of rich colors, too, including red, fuchsia, black and gold, which reflected his background in show business; he has worked as a stylist with artists such as singer Beyoncé, rapper Eve and the group Bewitched.
The designs met an enthusiastic reception and fans later rushed backstage to compliment a perspiring Brewster. “Excuse me for the sweat,” the designer told one aficionada, as he posed with her for the requisite selfie.
LIU CHAO AND ANTONIO ORTEGA
Liu Chao
Chinese designer Liu Chao and Mexican-Canadian stylist Antonio Ortega also presented their collections at the same venue, with Chao evoking a kind of Darth-Vader universe, with dark colours and dramatic, discordant music, while Ortega went for a playful yet elegant vibe.
As a spectator remarked, Chao’s designs “totally fit the setting”, with their futuristic feel and the echoes of other-worldliness, amidst the warmth. The emphasis on black - with tassels, studs and intriguing headgear - emitted youthful energy and edginess as well.
A similar, modern dynamism came from Ortega. He decorated the entrance to the show with bright-yellow posters bearing the words “be yourself”, and told his cast of models (including his two adopted children) to enjoy the garments.
Their joyousness and smiles became infective as they swaggered down the aisle wearing vibrant pink and yellow ensembles, and, at the end, spectacular peacock feathers.
“It was an interesting collection,” one spectator noted. “I really liked the playfulness.”
Antonio Ortega
Fans also commmented that the diversity of the models and the designers’ influences were a welcome aspect of the haute couture scene.
For his part, Ortega told Tasshon that he took inspiration from his own multi-cultural background.
“Multiculturalism is with us, and it’s a part of my brand and my soul,” he said. “When I travel, I see how mixed everything is - peacocks walking around in urban areas in India, for instance. That inspires me.”
His show, titled “Forms and Urban Desires” equally incorporated Art Nouveau elements, as the designer used reflective materials to give a “nod to a cityscape populated by glass and steel towers” and chose fabrics such as silk, tulle, lurex and cashmere to evoke both the curves and straight lines of towns.
CELIA KRITHARIOTI
Later the same day, Greek designer Celia Kritharioti paid homage to her mother through a breath-taking collection of superbly crafted dresses and gowns.
The show started with her voice relating a memory: “The first time I visited Paris, I was with my mother. I was a little girl and I was holding her hand as we entered all the fashion houses during Couture Week … My mother loved black, pearls and Paris, as much as she did Greece.”
Celia Kritharioti - ready to soar.
The collection put the spotlight on black for elegance, mixing the colour with gold before moving to ivory and finally a magnificent white gown with huge feathers. This was all set to live music from the talented soprano Christina Poulitsi, and took place in the ornate rooms of the Mona Bismarck townhouse - a centre for art and cultural events along the river Seine.
The models included Russian star Natalya Vodianova, wearing Chantilly lace, silk tulle, and velvet, among other fabrics, with intricate embroidery and pearls. Spiky black headdresses and lace leggings added to the overall aesthetics.
“We are in Paris again,” said Kritharioti, referring to her mother. “I have left her hand and walk alone. At every one of my shows, my gaze searches for her in the audience, though I know that she too, is looking at me from backstage, by my side.”
GALIA LAHAV
Russian-born designer Galia Lahav also had her partner - Sharon Sever - by her side for their collection titled “And God Created Woman”. The emphasis here was on femininity with pastels inspired by the seaside and by Monet’s impressionism.
Galia Lahav
Floral chiffon prints meanwhile came from Sever’s own watercolour artwork, and the yellows drew attention as Bill Wither's "Ain't No Sunshine" played over the speakers.
The “flirtatious and free” creations also used emerald green, denim blue and ice pink for vibrant dresses, jumpsuits and tops.
All the designs made for a grand spectacle in the high-ceilinged, historic setting of the Université René Descartes, in the sixth arrondissement. An off-the-shoulder gown in layers of silvery grey lace and a vibrant concoction in pink elicited gasps of appreciation for a brand renowned for its lavish, luxurious gowns.
“These clothes are hot. They really appeal to my inner duchess,” said a 70-year-old American spectator, walking out into the bright sunlight to a glass of chilled champagne served in the courtyard, after the défilé
The heatwave would continue for a few more shows. - Tasshon
Galia Lahav

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

PARIS FASHION WEEK: DESIGNERS TRY TO AVOID ‘CONFORMITY’

Paris Fashion Week was notable this year for the strong sense of wanting to shake things up and to use fashion design to raise awareness about certain issues.

Guests of French designer agnès b., for instance, received tote bags with a specific message:  “protest against the rising tide of conformity”. It was her way of saying that everyone is becoming too predictable, following trends.

agnes b. evokes the Caribbean
The designer’s mantra has always been that she “doesn’t do fashion” - she makes clothes; and the Spring/Summer 2018 collection illustrated this philosophy. The garments were supremely wearable while still being distinctive. They portrayed comfort with individuality, according to one observer.

Some of the designs were meant to pay homage to the spirit of the Caribbean, through vibrant colours, Rasta themes and feminine cuts, alongside the motto of “vive les ȋles” (long live the islands).

But agnès b. said she also wanted viewers to remember the Caribbean islands ravaged by recent hurricanes: Saint Martin, Barbuda, Dominica, Puerto Rico and others.

In addition, the collection included easy daywear – shorts, skirts and dresses - in khaki tones, as well as pastel-hued evening dresses that were striking in their simplicity.

SIRLOIN

Some designers believe that consumers really shouldn’t get all worked up trying to fit in with fashion trends.

Sirloin
“Sometimes you look better when you go out in your pyjamas,” says Alve Lagercrantz, who runs the Shanghai-based brand Sirloin with his partner Mao Usami.  

“Rather than trying too hard, just take things easy,” Lagercrantz advises.

For their Spring / Summer 2018 collection, the duo said they drew inspiration from Miami, and were also exploring “how China is mirroring American prosperity in the 90s and becoming the new land of possibilities”.

What this has to do with pyjamas is anyone’s guess, but most of the designs were loose-fitting, and played with the idea that the models were in their own episode of the classic Miami Vice television show.

Part of the playfulness centred on the concept that underwear can be “outerwear” as well. Why is a swimsuit not a suit, the designers asked. Their answer: it could easily become one, for those who have the “non-conformist” gumption to wear it away from the beach or pool.

Sirloin: comfort is everything.
Earlier this year, Sirloin presented their Fall/Winter collection in the historic lavatories beneath Madeleine Square in Paris. But this time, they “got an apartment” (to use Lagercrantz’s words).

Located in an upscale neighbourhood, the apartment was an appropriate setting for models who sauntered from room to room, sometimes pausing to slouch on an armchair or to stand staring off into space with an expression of ennui.

The clothing matched the mood – baggy trousers paired with silky tops, slack dresses in summer yellows and whites, and, of course, underclothes.

The two stylists, both graduates of Central Saint Martins arts and design college, have said that their “ultimate vision is to create a full wardrobe ‘literally’ from inside out” and to make people feel comfortable stepping out in pyjamas. They seem well on their way.

 ISABEL FELMER

For her Spring/Summer 2018 collection, French-Chilean designer Isabel Felmer used the sumptuous locale of the Chilean Embassy in Paris to good effect, contrasting futuristic designs with the classic decor of marble fireplaces and moulded ceilings.

Isabel Felmer designer
“I love the idea of mixing the future with the retro,” Felmer told Tasshon. “And this is the perfect place for it.”

Her show took the form of a performance rather than a straightforward défilé, as the models strutted around a wood-floored salon to techno music, striking poses from time to time or simply gyrating on one spot.

The three performers - representing different regions of the world also draped their arms around doll-like mannequins dressed in suits or evening wear.

At first glance, it was hard to distinguish the live models from the statues, as together they evoked a space-age distance, a kind of future-to-the-past sentiment, which tied in with the stylist’s aims.

The designer.
Felmer said her designs - both in white, and in bold splashes of colour - were inspired by the Japanese model and actress Sayoko Yamaguchi, who was one of the first Asian supermodels.

Here too, these garments were for those who possess a strong individualistic streak, as Felmer paired masculine cuts with a flamboyant look for the white suits. 

In the more colourful designs, she imprinted photos that she had taken onto the various fabrics. - Tasshon

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

TRAVELLING BETWEEN WORLDS WITH DESIGNER REI KAWAKUBO

The Costume Institute at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is “examining” the work of Japanese fashion designer Rei Kawakubo for its spring 2017 exhibition.

Designs by Rei Kawakubo, at the Met.
The show, “Art of the In-Between”, features approximately 140 examples of designs by Kawakubo, who is known for her avant-garde works as well as her ability to challenge accepted notions of beauty, good taste, and "fashionability”, according to the Institute.

The items on display date from the early 1980s to Kawakubo’s most recent collection for Comme des Garçons (the company she founded in 1969), with many of the designs having “heads and wigs created and styled by Julien d'Ys”.

Visitors will be struck not only by the bold colours and cuts but also by the futuristic elements that would appeal to interplanetary travellers. Beyond that, the show demolishes any concept of barriers between art and fashion design.

Kawakubo: dresses, or not?
“Kawakubo breaks down the imaginary walls between these dualisms, exposing their artificiality and arbitrariness,” says the Institute.

It has organized the exhibits into nine “aesthetic expressions of interstitiality” in the designer's work. These are: Absence/Presence, Design/Not Design, Fashion/Anti-Fashion, Model/Multiple, Then/Now, High/Low, Self/Other, Object/Subject, and Clothes/Not Clothes.

Viewers will find themselves drawn into this exploration of “in-betweenness” and will probably leave inspired by the boundlessness of a creative mind such as Kawakubo’s. And then, there are the clothes: to wear or not to wear?

"Art of the In-Between" runs until Sept. 4, 2017.

The Met’s Costume Institute has a collection of more than 35,000 costumes and accessories, “representing  five continents and seven centuries of fashionable dress, regional costumes, and accessories for men, women, and children, from the fifteenth century to the present.”

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

PORTRAIT OF CLAUDIA HUTCHINS, AN AMERICAN ARTIST IN PARIS

As spring turns into summer, Paris-based artist Claudia Hutchins is in her element, painting the flowers that one can find all over the French capital – from the Jardin du Luxembourg to the roads along the river Seine.

Claudia Hutchins in her studio.
Born in California, Hutchins has lived in France for most of her life and has taught art classes to both children and adults.

She conducted outdoor classes for about 15 years and has introduced aspiring artists to the difficult genre of water-color painting.

“I’ve always wanted to give something back,” she says of the teaching and the volunteer work she does in her adopted country. “It’s a small way to help bring about change.”

Hutchins’ art spans nature scenes, still life, human portraits and animals. She’s currently working on a series of beach paintings and has developed postcards based on her playful cat portraits.

For more information: http://claudiahutchins.com/

Monday, April 3, 2017

FRENCH FAIR HIGHLIGHTS CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN ARTWORK

Spring means art in Paris. From the end of March, the city becomes awash with the colours of impressionism, retrospectives of master painters, modern art and contemporary works, as museums launch grandiose exhibitions.

Each spring as well, the Art Paris Art Fair welcomes dozens of galleries to the imposing glass-domed Grand Palais exhibition halls, and this year Africa was the guest of honour, with 139 galleries presenting works by an array of artists with links to the continent.

Artwork by Marion Boehm
The 19th edition of the art fair (March 30 to April 2) featured both monographic exhibitions in the Solo Show section and up-and-coming artists in the section titled Promesses (Promises).

Among the 29 countries represented were galleries from Angola, South Africa, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast, Senegal and other African nations.

The goal, said the organizers, was to “showcase the talented emerging generation of artists from both the African continent itself and from its diaspora”. Around 15 “Western galleries” chose to show the work of their African artists, who included Omar Ba of Senegal, Kendell Geers of South Africa and Chéri Samba from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In all, the participating galleries presented some 100 artists at the fair, with the African focus being under the direction of cultural consultant and independent curator Marie-Ann Yemsi.

Artist Marion Boehm poses with her work.
Some of the works that drew particular attention were created by European-born artists who had lived in Africa - such as Marion Boehm, whose massive paper-and-fabric collages put African subjects at the centre of traditional, Western-style formats.

Boehm said in an interview that she had always been bothered by the “peripheral” placing of African characters in European paintings of the past; so her pieces (which share certain aspects with the work of Senegalese photographer Omar Victor Diop and that of American painter Kehinde Wiley) depict subjects from colonial eras as principal actors.

The fair also displayed works by Senegalese sculptor Ousmane Sow, who died last December at the age of 81. His larger-than-life “Mother and Child” sculpture gave a reminder of why his art was so celebrated during his lifetime.

Visitors view Alexis Peskine's "Wolof Cosmic" -
created with nails, moon gold leaf, paint
and varnish on wood panels.
Works by other notable artists were spread around the fair, attracting viewers even though the pleasant weather outside provided stiff competition.

Still, the current act of showcasing these artists shouldn't obscure the fact that “France is backward in terms of its appreciation of contemporary African art”, said curator Yemsi.

“If it would be inexact to say that nothing has changed in France over the last thirty years ..., the history of art as it continues to be taught and disseminated has hardly contributed at all, contrary to other European countries, to the much-needed decolonization of knowledge and imagination,” Yemsi wrote in the fair’s press book. - Tasshon

Ousmane Sow's "Mother and Child", Bronze 2001.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

PARIS FASHION WEEK: INSPIRATION FROM AFRICA, WASHROOMS

Manish Arora design.
Indian designer Manish Arora and several other innovative stylists have been showing why African print is such a potent source of inspiration. The colours and geometric shapes enliven all materials, and when they’re adopted by visionary artists, they take on a “galactic” dimension, as Arora proved with his Fall/Winter 2017 collection titled “Cosmic Love”.

Manish Arora
The aim was to take viewers on a “visual journey”, starting from Africa and spanning into the “outer reaches of the cosmos”, said Arora, as he celebrated his brand’s 10th anniversary during Paris Fashion Week, Feb. 28 to March 7.

Bold colours and “arithmetic” shapes were thus patch-worked onto denim tunics or appliquéd on silk organza dresses, while “African textures of boiled wool patchwork” were used for oversize bombers and waistcoats - all for an original look.

The emerald and gold of peacock feathers was also a trend throughout, as the models strutted down the runway, their faces and arms decorated with beads and “tribal” paint.

The peacock motif stood out in embroidery on evening dresses and gowns that had Arora’s trademark playfulness.

With other garments, the designer employed striking shades of tangerine, royal blue and fuschia, and mixed Aztec prints and Art Deco patterns for in-your-face wrap dresses and trouser suits.

For some, the boldness was a bit too much. “It lacks subtlety,” a Dutch viewer remarked at the end of the show. “It’s too overwhelming.” Still, whatever the reaction, one thing was certain: this was a show to be remembered.

Manish Arora

SIRLOIN - THE NEW DESIGNERS IN THE LOO

Sometimes location is everything. Shanghai-based womenswear label Sirloin presented their first Fall/Winter 2017 collection in the public toilets of Paris, with models lounging in doorways or, in one case, sitting atop a commode.

Sirloin
Of course, this wasn’t just any washroom, but the historic lavatories beneath Madeleine Square, on which stands the famed Église (Church) de la Madeleine. Built in the 1930s, the toilets were being opened for the first time again since 2011, and the space was therefore gleaming, with its fancy tiles and doors.

According to Sirloin, which was founded by Japanese-Swedish duo Mao Usami and Alve Lagercrantz, the location was meant to emphasize a “self-ironic point of view” during the brand’s launch at Paris Fashion Week.

The two, both graduates of Central Saint Martins arts and design college, have already won several awards, and they say that their “ultimate vision is to create a full wardrobe ‘literally’ from inside out”. That means that underclothes or pyjamas are the priority - garments that make one comfortable, relaxed and light-hearted.

Their “narrative” of the Fall/Winter season was presented through designs that drew on vintage corduroys and cashmeres, as well as on Chinese sand-washed silk, rough sweatshirts and towel-type fabrics.

The collection finished off with “outdoor” wear that employed “underwear details”, to use their own description. The idea was to create a full wardrobe, in which underclothes are somehow merged with whatever one considers “ready to wear”. – Tasshon

Sirloin