Perry Snodgrass Gallery

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"Breaking Out" Exhibition

March-April 2010
At Tin Shed Arts, Malmsbury VIC

 

ARTIST'S STATEMENT

The collection is of tonal realist paintings in two streams on the theme of women "breaking out".

One stream, set in the Art Deco period (1920-30), combines still life and fashion illustrations,  portraits of models dressed in the clothes of the same period in an appropriate setting, and  women expressing their independence in cars.

The Harajuka Girls stream includes paintings of contemporary young Japanese women breaking out from a traditional culture. "Harajuka" is the name of the Tokyo district where the street culture is expressed and the young dress in wild punk and fairytale fashions.

 

Art Deco Theme

The handbag that announced both status and substance began in the 19th century and was perfected in the early 20th. The classic bag had begun with the horse and the steamship. Louis Vuitton made travelling trunks for Napolean III  and Hermes was saddler to the aristocracy. These leather manufacturers designed and made handbags for women who were becoming more independent and needed a bag to carry keys, lipstick, perfume, old (and new) love letters, a diary and cigarettes. Psychiatrists have called the handbag “vagina dentata” – the only place a man’s hand is unwelcome. The handbags in this collection are from the major European fashion designers in the 1920-30’s – the middle of the Art Deco period.

 After the first World War, France led the world with high quality fashion from the houses of Chanel, Worth, Poiret, Schiaparelli and the glossy pages of the fashion magazines, Vogue, Gazette du bon ton, Harpers Bazaar and Art-Goût-Beauté brought the latest fashion to women throughout the world. I have borrowed from some of the famous French illustrators of  the day and used their beautiful drawings as a backdrop to these paintings. Their themes show how the world was changing for women, it was a time of ‘breaking out’ from the aftermath of the Great War. Women were now entering the workplace, they were buying easy to wear ‘off the peg’ clothes of artificial fibres, like crepe-de-chine and jersey. They were driving cars, flying planes, drinking, smoking and dancing to jazz and swing and there was no turning back.

 

Thanks to vintage MG, Morris Cowley and Morris 8/40 car owners Jim and Jackie Pearce of Adelaide SA.

1914 Vauxhall and 1928 Studebaker cars owned by R. Bruce Ritchie of Auburn NSW.

 

Harajuku Girls Theme

The subject of this group of paintings is representative of women’s fashion again being used to break-out by early 21st century women and girls. I have chosen these Harajuku girls to highlight the contrast between the beauty and serenity of their traditional japanese culture and extraordinary vibrancy of their breakout fashion choices.

 These paintings, Harajuku Girls, are inspired by Japanese fashion photographer Masayuki Yoshinaga. Since 2006, he has been photographing young Japanese youths parading the streets of the famous Harajuku district of Tokyo wearing clothes creatively assembled and sourced from charity shops to high end department stores. There are many layers within the highly expressive Japanese fashion culture and I have focused on two of them. The younger, teenage group called ‘Fruits’ have a softer appearance while the over-twenties are usually attracted to the ‘Goths and Loli’ (‘Gothic and Lolita’) styles. Loli is defined by frills, ribbons and petticoats and child-like dresses influenced by many western fairy tales such as ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and by 18th Century European fashion. The Gothic fashion in Japan invokes more of a themed dress-up look, such as the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

 This new fashion genre has spread world wide and Harajuku girls have appeared in the video clips of pop divas Madonna and Gwen Stefani. The enormous effort these young people put into their outfits, seeking attention with youthful rebellion, indicates a need to express themselves and to break away from the very conservative culture that they are growing up in.

My approach to this work has been to show a contrast between the subject and the surroundings. The new and the old. In each painting I have included something traditionally Japanese: Mt Fuji from a Japanese woodblock print; kimonos; antique vase; plate; fan, umbrella; and a Takashi Murakami inspired handbag. I have incorporated anime, ‘Elegant Goths’, and a made up anime character in ‘Warrior Princess’. I have also been inspired by the philosophy of highly successful ‘pop artist’ Takashi Murakami and his use of kawai, a Japanese term that translatess roughly to “cuteness”. I have tried to find ways to incorporate these trends into works that have lasting value.

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