Jonathan Hobin is a talented photographer, but his vision has encountered a certain amount of resistance. Awash in Canadian sunlight, two of his own images hanging on a stark white wall behind him, and drawing ever-closer to his soon-to-open exhibition at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto, he tells Schon!: “I’ve had a couple of critics say, ‘Oh, I think what you’ve done is horrible and you would have been able to accomplish the same thing by using teenagers.’ To use teenagers? Why would you suggest that other than the fact that it makes you uncomfortable?”
Uncomfortable is a fair enough way to feel when you see Hobin’s work, particularly his latest series. In the Playroom depicts children at sinister play recreating recent history’s most traumatizing events. His September 11th tableau got a lot of press, but there are more powerful images in the series; more delicately handled, carefully considered and constructed with a painstaking attention to detail and careful eye for beauty. A fair number are stunning in more ways than one. “It’s complicated enough for me,” Hobin says of the events his chooses to depict, from the Jonestown Massacre to Abu Grabe (the photograph, cleverly titled “A Boo Grave”, is an image of children dressing up for Halloween as torturers and the tortured). “So how would someone who has less context and experience comprehend something as massive as mass death?”
Hobin’s work is more tableau than photograph. His images are dominated by complex and beautiful backgrounds, sets that clearly required as much—if not more—creative energy than the photos themselves. It was this talent for establishing a setting that led him to a career in art direction and set design for films before he found his way back into the photography world. Hobin says of his time at university, where he studied photography: “I was making images, not photographs, and the photo became just a tool to document the set that I had created.” The disciplines are linked, and you can see the range of Hobin’s experience in the photographs that comprise In the Playroom. “They definitely have fed off each other,” he says of his two disciplines. “I’ve brought what I learned from my own experience doing set design for boring made-for-TV movies and transitioning the heavily orchestrated things to be able to do that on a much smaller scale, when it’s just me and maybe one other person creating stills.”
Hobin’s inspiration for In the Playroom, and for much of his broader work, is the encroaching darkness of the adult world onto childhood and our willingness, as adults, to ignore the way the most gruesome elements of our world filter down. Hobin explains: “I think there are a lot of people who reflect back on childhood with rose-coloured glasses [but] everyone’s had a sort of traumatic childhood event. I didn’t want to lose sight of the fact that it can be an incredibly complicated and pivotal moment in people’s lives.”
Hobin’s photographs are shocking to some, and fascinating to others, because they so clearly demonstrate what we already know to be true: children play at being adults until they are adults, and that play often includes a thorough exploration of the darkest parts of grown-up life. “We seem to gloss over this idea that kids pretend to murder each other all the time,” he says, “but as soon as you put it into context for adults— as to where [children] might have possibly learned about killing— people become uncomfortable. I think that using children as models is crucial to the impact of what I’m trying to say.”
But it isn’t all doom and gloom. “Sometimes the imagery can be really serious and sometimes, like childhood, it’s more complicated. It can start with a little bit of whimsy and dark humor and a little bit of a chuckle.”
To View more of Jonathan Hobin’s work please visit www.jhobin.com
Words / Lucinda Beeman
Follow her on Twitter @LucindaBeeman
The world of female fashion modelling has quickly evolved from showcasing girls no differently to the way they would an inanimate object, to creating an entire industry of role models. Today’s girls such as Karlie Kloss, Coco Rocha, Liu Wen, Gisele Bundchen, and Kate Moss are not just hangers; they are game changers. These models are world ambassadors who broadcast their voice through social media outlets. Instead of giving life to garments, some models now give life to others through human rights activism, AIDS research, and various charities. These girls are more approachable than their supermodel predecessors such as Linda, Naomi, or Cindy. By being accessible through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, today’s fashion models sell dreams that we can be a part of, making fashion a growing reality.
However, it has not always been this way. From the first photographs of the 19th century to the pages of magazines, to moving pictures of commercials and videos, the model was created by and for the fashion clothing industry. She embodies contradictions between commerce and creativity. The exposition Mannequin: Le Corps de La Mode (Model: The Body of Fashion), presents the history of the women underneath the clothing. This retrospective bares all with nearly 120 prints, most of which are from the collections of the Museum Galliera. You can find the current exposition at Les Docks: Cité de la Mode et du Design in Paris. It unites a variety of videos (from Gareth Pugh, to a Theirry Mugler runway show, to PhotoShopping techniques on how to create a slimmer model), actual wicker mannequins, and photographs. Works of several photographic giants are displayed, such as Horst P. Horst, Erwin Blumenfeld, Henry Clarke, Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin, Nick Knight, Corinne Day, and Juergen Teller.
Similar to how the first wirework mannequins in the mid-1800s showed dresses at a storefront window, the living model served to bring clients to the fashion designer. Wood, wicker, or wax before being flesh, the first models ambiguously fluctuated between object and subject, of thread and life. The model was a manipulatable object, a living doll. The model gave shape to clothes, but was somehow more than just this. She was the feminine ideal of beauty and youth, with an aim to seduce. Slowly but surely, models became the living and breathing part of the fashion system. She is a product of her time, but the generic standard that many models are expected to up hold, leave little room for individuality or realism. From the early 20th century, women of high society and actresses were fashion icons, bringing fame to brands and magazines. Recognizable, but mouldable, professional models undertake fictional roles under the direction of photographers and directors. Beyond the fashion system, they embody fantasies.
In 1924, the couturier Jean Patou in Paris brought “tall, thin, hipless, and fine ankled” American models to Paris and the standards of female beauty were altered, and now attractiveness was defined by the cult of thinness and youth from the 1960s. In the late ’80s, Peter Lindbergh and Steven Meisel created the supermodels: Christy, Claudia, Linda, and Naomi providing a strong narrative for models. In the 1990s however, the notion of imperfect beauty stormed into the fashion world. Photographs suddenly depicted reality, even intimacy, with the photo of Kate Moss by Corrine Day showing that beauty was accessible.
Whether an anonymous cover girl, supermodel, or the girl next door, the role of a fashion model does more than question our aesthetics and tastes. She is a vision of admiration; she reinforces what beauty means in this day and age. Moreover, she brings the clothes to life and places a whole new meaning on what fashion is and what fashion can do for others.
Mannequin: Le Corps de la Mode is at Les Docks: Cité de la Mode et du Design in Paris from now until May 19, 2013. For more info visit: http://www.paris-docks-en-seine.fr/
Words / Sheri Chiu
Follow her on Twitter @schiuonthis
‘Fashioning Fashion: Two Centuries of European Fashion (1700-1915),’ takes a retrospective look at our attire of the past. After being shown at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in 2010, the exhibition has sashayed over to Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris where it currently showcases an excellent selection of ancient clothing and accessories.
A hundred male and female garments offer a historical and thematic overview of the major trends in European fashion from the early 18th century to the beginning of the 20th century. A demonstration of our changing tastes, the exhibition also unearths fashion’s technical and frequently concealed aspects. Shedding light on the dressmaking and tailoring techniques used, the quality and delicacy of fabrics, embroideries, and trimmings.
The goal of the exposition is to deliver a richer understanding of how fashion and sophistication were captured and created in Europe for over two centuries.
From the mid-1700s, women began wearing the robe à la française, or sac-back gown, which quickly came into fashion as a regular day dress. Such an extravagant gown pieced together with a boned corset and petticoat would seem excessive today, but clothing was a method to communicate wealth and status back then. For example, an elegant Portuguese dress had a very long train that required the assistance of attendants, showing social power and material wealth.
In the mid-1800s, dresses spoke of a woman’s role in society. Women were portrayed as a model of virtue and were not expected to do anything physical. The burdensome skirts they wore at the time succeeded in stopping them from being anything but idle.
Fashion also communicated a history of international affairs. With the development of trade, Europeans were more and more influenced by India and the Far East. Traders brought back luxury goods such as spices, tea and of course, fabrics. This led to the craze for cotton painted fabrics known as Indiennes, these were used for both upholstery and informal wear. Europeans discovered Indian muslins, turbans, fans, and exotic plants, which influenced European fashion in creating shimmering, palm frond motifs. Chinese, Japanese, and Turkish influences impacted not only on clothing, but also decorative arts, painting, and theatre.
Women were not the only ones conscious of their figure at the time, as even men wore corsets to narrow their waist. The outfit was normally composed of fitted trousers, a shirt, a colourful vest and a coat. A top hat and a tie added a hint of colour to the solemn silhouette, providing that final touch.
The beginning of the 20th century showed a transition from the hourglass to a more cylinder silhouette. The early 1900’s Art Nouveau philosophy allowed women to become more casual in their attire, but still exhibit their female form. Sinuous lines in clothing gave women a serpentine shape resembling the letter ‘S.’ By heightening the body’s natural shape, the corset intensified and redefined curves and bust, while accentuating the slim waist and forcing back the derrière.
Slowly but surely, all of these developments led to the establishment of haute couture. Charles Frederick Worth (1825 -1895) is considered the father of the art. For the first time, dresses were not pre-ordered by customers: Worth sold pre-made gowns that came straight out of his imagination. Other couturiers, such as Madeline Vionnet (1876-1975) and Jacques Doucet (1853–1929), also had a tremendous impact on fashion. They paved the way for today’s fashion designers.
The monsters well known to sleep under the bed have joined forces with 58 established and upcoming fashion designers to create the imaginative ‘ARRRGH! Monsters in Fashion’ exhibition in Paris. Eighty mesmerizing creatures are presented at La Gaîté Lyrique, fashioned by Alexander McQueen, Issey Miyake, Gareth Pugh, and Rick Owens to name a few. These monsters are unusual characters that test our comforts and conventions, reminding us that our differences are an important value to defend.
“ARRRGH!” is the cry of surprise, fear and worry. We scream to send a message to others, to notify them of potential danger. It is that very scream that reminds us that we depend on other’s human relationships to coexist. The monsters in this exhibition bring us together to study our fear and to reflect on fashion norms.
What is a monster? For the ancient Greeks the word ‘monster’ described anything that was inexplicably strange, including the astonishing, heavenly, phenomena of the world and universe.
In the current fashion industry, the human body is constantly mutated into mysterious, strange, and sometimes monstrous figures. Designers and artists experiment to provide unusual shapes with textiles, creating abnormal forms and extreme volumes. These artists mask the human face and dress the body with animated colours, while simultaneously adding abstract elements.
In today’s globalised society, ‘natural beauty’ is questioned. What is considered beautiful and desirable in one culture can be revolting in another.
In this exhibition, fashion steers clear of ‘Who I am,’ but focuses on ‘What I experience.”
What lies hidden behind a person or an identity? What constitutes identity in a secularized society in which we see ourselves both as a citizen of the world and as a member of a local community? Besides our real lives we now also lead virtual, digital lives on the Internet. We create and develop our very own avatar. Then who do we become when we look within ourselves and give our fears and fantasies free rein?
ARRRGH! Monsters in Fashion is at La Gaîté Lyrique in Paris from now until April 7, 2013
For more information please visit: http://www.gaite-lyrique.net/en/theme/arrrgh-monsters-in-fashion
Words / Sheri Chiu
Follow her on Twitter @schiuonthis
One of the most anticipated fashion events in the world takes place in Paris every Summer: the Haute Couture runway shows. While access to the spectacles are strictly invitation only, you can still view exquisite handmade dresses up close at the Paris Haute Couture exhibition, supported by Swarovski, at Hôtel de Ville. For the very first time in Paris, an array of 100 pieces is displayed for the public eye, free of charge. The garments were selected from the Musée Galliera by the museum’s director Olivier Saillard and curator Ann Zazzo.
In the exposition you can expect to see extraordinary dresses dating back 150 years, as well as creations from up and coming couturiers. Lanvin, Chanel, Balenciaga, Givenchy, Jean Paul Gaultier and Vionnet are just a few of the many French designers whose work is shown.
Amid the cream satins and luxurious embroidered tulle, beads, stones and crystals are delicately worked into the fabric. Numerous evening gowns, coats and handbags are embellished with Swarovski crystals. Conventional shapes are challenged and geometrical silhouettes dominate the scene. Bright, eye-catching colours make their appearance, as do graphic motifs that were often influenced by art. We see Asian inspirations, flowered patterns, jewellery and diamonds. Moreover, the sketches of the couturiers themselves are presented, along with several photographs to provide an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the craftsmanship involved in high fashion.
This is both the history and future of Haute Couture.
‘Be a man!’ It’s an all-too-common order to males around the world, implying that perhaps masculinity isn’t as innate as we all first thought. Exploring this concept – and posing the questions, ‘How does a man see himself?’, ‘How do women see men?’ and ‘How do men see other men?’ – is the ‘Be a Man!’ exhibition at the Sumarria Lunn Gallery in Mayfair, London.
Featuring artworks from Claude Cahun, Alexis Hunter, Mahtab Hussain, Ali Kazim, littlewhitehead, Miguel Rael and Hank Willis Thomas, this groundbreaking exhibition showcases the various representations of masculinity, taking into consideration social, political, historical and cultural mores.
Artworks include a series of photographs from Alexis Hunter, which when previously shown at the Belfast City Gallery in 1978, caused such controversy that the security guards walked out until they were removed! By using a nude male porn star as an object of sexual desire, Hunter combats the male gaze which sees females adorn the majority of advertorials and publications.
Further pieces detail the complex relationship between cultural traditions and modern-day ideas of masculinity. Photographs by Mahtab Hussain feature British Pakistani men who consider body-building to be as important as their religion; traditional facial hair offset against rippling muscles embodies this paradigm.
Claude Cahun’s work continuously blurs gender lines and challenges the concept of masculinity. One of the earliest autobiographical photographers to explore sexuality, Cahun used her own image to defy the sexual and social norms of her time, the results of which are still relevant today.
The notion of masculinity is one which carries with it many difficulties, especially when it comes to definition. This exhibition intends to explore the concept of maleness further, with the help of evocative artists the world over. So ‘Be a Man!’ and head to the Sumarria Lunn Gallery in Mayfair from 14th March – 19th April 2013.
For more information, visit http://www.sumarrialunn.com/
Words / Roxanne Golding
Follow her on Twitter @RoxanneGolding
Elusive artist Nicholas Alvis Vega (his real name remains a mystery; all we know is that he works under a few) is challenging the way society views women through his latest exhibition ‘Nymphae Nymphalidae’. Painstakingly recreating classic paintings to then deface them by adding modern day pin-ups, pouring on paint and folding the canvas in half – like the butterfly paintings we created as children – Vega wanted to have a conversation about the stagnant depiction of the female, so we did.
Why replicate and deface classic paintings and how do you choose which ones to work with?
This series is based on the depiction of women in art, and how the Renaissance has set the way that women are depicted in fashion and advertising and so forth. I don’t think it was necessarily the intention of the original artist to produce something which would be idolised forever; the women who posed for these paintings were probably prostitutes, who were then hallowed as saints, as beautiful goddess-like figures. When choosing paintings I try to find images that we’re all very, very familiar with, but it can just be something which strikes me.
Do you think the way the female is represented has changed since these classics were created?
I don’t think it has. I started this by accident; I began working on a couple of paintings and realised the correlation between them and a picture in Vogue or on an advertising billboard. The intention of this work is to move on, to change, that’s also why I’m kind of attacking them throughout.
You are working to deconstruct the male gaze, is this something you find difficult as a man yourself?
Yes, it’s a big challenge – and dealing with all this history – but that’s what fascinated me, the fact that it’s just being regurgitated. Men have a lot to answer for. But having said that it’s not just men who are intrigued by it; it’s women as well. If everybody recognised this we might be a little less repressed about it all.
How is it possible to change the way women are perceived if, like you’ve said, both men and women appreciate this heightened sense of femininity which is still seen today?
Advertising plays on people’s weaknesses, so the only way I can see it changing is if we all get over our weaknesses, but the only way that will happen is if advertising stops exploiting us, so it’s a vicious circle.
Your paintings and indeed your houses (Nicholas has homes in Marrakech, India and the Côte d’Azur which have featured in several interiors publications) are exceptionally vibrant. Is colour important to you?
I think it’s being born and brought up in Africa. When I first moved to England I just thought it was so grey here. I see colour as energy. That’s why I so love this series. Even if you overlook the images, you still get this amazing abstract quality.
Is there a method to choosing the materials you use to deface each work?
There is to a certain extent, I try to use colours and effects which are incongruous to the base paintings, so gloss paint, fluorescent, sparkles. I try not to be too precious about it; I want the painting to have a life of its own.
After having meticulously painted the base image, does a part of you not want to ‘ruin’ it?
Yes, every time I do it! When you attack them it’s really scary, you think “I’m going to be really controlled with this”, but even after the first time you’ve folded it, the paint’s already gone where you didn’t want it to be. Almost every one I looked at and thought “I’ve ruined that”, but it makes you work even harder to try to get it back. It’s a really exciting process.
These additions are reminiscent of both Rorschach tests and butterflies. Are they simply a further nod to female genitalia as the name ‘Nymphae Nymphalidae’ would suggest?
The butterfly is symbolic of femininity – the lightness, and obviously the sexual aspects are very important, but maybe that’s what I read into it and other people don’t. I see them as very sexual and sensual, but also abstract.
You often work under different names. Is this simply a method to starting afresh? Do you not fear your former personas will get lost, and the work with it?
There was a very famous Portuguese writer named Fernando Pessoa, who wrote under several different names with a completely different style for each. I have always felt influenced by that; it just gives you such a freedom to do something else. I don’t really care about my work if it gets lost because of the name change – everything has to stand up on its own two feet.
Was there anything further you learnt from this work, besides the fact that the representation of the female is seemingly unchanging?
I’ve learnt how creative destruction can be, and fearlessness. You can’t be precious about things. Once you become precious about something you don’t go that little be further.
‘Nymphae Nymphalidae’ is at the Rove Gallery from 9th March – 6th April 2013. For more information, visit www.rovetv.net
The ‘new Sun King of Electronic Pop’ Jef Barbara is an enigma. Classing himself as more of an actor than a musician, but one which slips so effortlessly into the category of poet also, this glitter-drenched Canadian offers a whirlwind of dreamy yet up tempo beats and androgynous glamour if you surrender to his whimsy.
Dancing the line between synth-heavy melancholy and pulsing club anthems, whatever the mood of Barbara’s creations the presence of eloquent lyrics is absolute. Uttering in both French and English, depending on his mood, he is commanding yet articulate, the sporadic use of word juxtaposed with abundant electronics wholly reminiscent of sounds from the Eighties.
An overtly sensual individual, sex is at the forefront of all aspects of Barbara’s performance. With those sultry mascara-framed eyes and an aura which fully alludes to fellow gender-bender Grace Jones, even his name intimates dual sexuality. It’s inevitable to compare him to the likes of George Michael, Gary Numan, Marc Almond and David Bowie, but even the names Madonna and James Brown have been banded around.
Popular with the cool kids in France, with a cult following at home, Canada’s Prince of Electro-pop possesses a seedy allure which lends itself perfectly to the covert yet wholly creative environment of the underground club scene – a setting Vincent Urbani emanates here in his portraits.
Embodying this peculiar stream of fantastical pop are Barbara’s strangely compelling videos. A bounty of lo-fi delights; his visual creations are a brouhaha of Warhol-esque colour, cutesy shimmying and photo-montage. But this collage aesthetic does not stop there, the manifestation of pastiche; Jef Barbara is perhaps the most ostentatious bag of sweets one hopes to find.
Words / Roxanne Golding
Experimental multi-media artist Mike Ballard began his career at just 14 years old, as the graffiti writer ‘CEPT’. Twenty years on, he helped to transform the visual landscape of London. Ballard talks to Schön! Magazine about his design inspirations, his impressive profile of exhibitions and what we can expect to see from him in the future.
You started your career at a young age. What was it that triggered your interest in art?
A book called ‘Subway Art’ which was published in 1984. It’s by Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant. It was the first documentation of New York subway graffiti. I was absorbed by the fact that you can create your own tag and develop your own style of calligraphy. Another book called ‘Spray Can Art’ by Henry Chalfant and James Prigoff also caught my attention. I was heavily inspired by both books, drawing and travelling.
Where do your artistic ideas initially come from?
My inspirations constantly change. At the moment the Internet is my main source. I feel like there’s so much out there, you’re completely bombarded. A vast amount of my ideas come from growing up, hip hop music and taking bits from other people and putting it together to make a new object that didn’t exist before; especially when making a collage. I enjoy making things primitive and giving it a twist.
How did your time at Central Saint Martins impact on you as an artist?
It majorly impacted on me as I had never studied art before, I’d only self-taught and watched other people beforehand. It encouraged me to be more open-minded, and step away from being so channelled into a graffiti style. I therefore looked more towards making multi-media pieces and began to become more experimental.
You can be seen as a diverse artist due to the broadness of your work. What are the reasons for keeping your art so broad?
I don’t want to be a one trick pony that does one thing and then milks it for the rest of their career – I would just get bored very easily. I don’t ever want to just be a painter or a video artist. I’d rather have more options and be an open artist.
You make use of a wide variety of mediums. How do you appropriate a suitable one for a particular project?
I look at my work and decide if there’s a certain element that is worth picking out and explaining further. For example, when collaging I will tend to make that focal point into a video or incorporate audio. A good example is the spray can work I did: I had a video of the cans being sprayed and then a canvas painting which was the residue of the video – it provided a finishing effect.
You have an impressive profile of solo and group exhibitions behind you. Is there a particular one that you could single out, and why?
The last show I did which was called I.D.S.T., in Brixton; this has been my favourite show so far. The gallery was great, as were the people and the space was amazing – I had three or four separate rooms. I feel like I created a really immersive exhibition, and it’s definitely my favourite to date, but each exhibition is a progression and will be better than the last.
What can we expect to see from your upcoming solo show in London in September?
I haven’t finalised anything idea wise yet. I’m currently creating work then I’ll create a title and see how it all fits together. I want the paintings upstairs to stand very slick by themselves and the multi media downstairs will kind of be the under belly of what goes on.
See more of Ballard’s work at www.mikeballard.co.uk
Words / Samantha Wilkins
Follow her on Twitter @WILKINSSAMANTHA
Schön! Magazine talks to the talented self-taught visual artist Timothy Cummings. With a crayon and pencil in his hand since childhood, Cummings began to flourish as an artist when he moved to San Francisco. His highly saturated paintings focus on dreams and childhood fantasy and in this interview he talks to us about escaping reality through his art. “I like the fantasy of childhood,” he says, “being able to use your mind to create the world around you.”