Home Arts & Lit Favourite Exhibitions Of Summer

Favourite Exhibitions Of Summer

Rowan Keith discusses her three favourite exhibitions over the summer: 'A Celebration of Flowers' by Kaffe Fassett with Candace Bahouth at the Victoria Art Gallery in Bath; 'Artist Rooms' by Jenny Holzer in the Tate Modern and 'Fashioned From Nature' in the V&A Museum.

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Kaffe Fassett’s designs have always held sentimental value for me. My mother has always been a huge fan, recreating thousands of his designs through his knitting patterns making jumpers for herself and the rest of our family. Walking into this exhibition was an immediate reminder of why both her and I have such a soft spot for him; Fassett’s play with colour, flower and pattern creates something magical, the effect of which intensifies by multitudes the longer you look at it.

What makes both Fassett and Bahouth’s work so special is the integral awareness and understanding of their materials. They both take what is stereotypically considered craft and create art to invent something both familiar and sublime. Hand craft is evident in all of these pieces, from the freehand stitching to the slight distortion of the canvas due to it being stretched through the embroidery. These pieces need to be seen in person; the image without the texture and depth provides only a fraction of the beauty.

Fassett’s play with colour, flower and pattern creates something magical

Although this exhibition only occupies one relatively small room, this only intensifies the effect of the explosion of colour. The Victoria Art Gallery really made the most of this space to emphasise the boldness of these pieces to create a truly spectacular exhibition.

Artist Rooms: Jenny Holzer, Tate Modern in London

Jenny Holzer is a really interesting artist who became famous through her use of huge spaces and projections onto buildings to display her prose and poetry as works of art. I was unsure how this would translate into a more traditional exhibition space, however, the work remained incredibly impactful.

The entry room of this exhibition is plastered in small, prose statements from top to bottom, meaning despite its small size you could spend at least an hour in that room alone. This contrasts hugely with the much more stark room that it leads on to, the main feature of which is a huge neon moving column suspended from the ceiling, contrasting also with the monochromatic tones of the room before it. In this exhibition, Holzer addresses themes of feminism, sexuality and ideology alongside more specific political events, such as the treatment of Syrian refugees. Everywhere you look there is something new being discussed. This exhibition has also evolved and shifted throughout its time at the Tate, and could easily be worth multiple visits.

Holzer addresses themes of feminism, sexuality and ideology alongside more specific political events

Holzer’s use of words as her medium, embracing both traditional and non-traditional display spaces, is what makes her work so refreshing, and this exhibition is no exception. Also, as an English student, I will obviously love anyone who makes words the focus of their art.

Fashioned From Nature, Victoria and Albert Museum in London

This exhibition was definitely my favourite of the summer. Although I am biased, given that I have studied textiles and am hoping to go into the fashion industry, the dissection of the fashion industry and its evolution, something we all utilise every day, offers something of value to everyone. The exhibition progresses chronologically, delving into different materials that have been used in fashion throughout history, eventually looking at the development of sustainable fast fashion and how current brands and celebrities are trying to fight against the huge environmental impact the fashion industry has. It offers a discussion on their production methods and the ethics of these alongside displaying truly beautiful garments and accessories made from these materials. The pairing of the educational with the visually enthralling is key to the success of this exhibition.  

This exhibition had many lasting impacts on me. Whenever I go to a fashion exhibition, particularly at the V and A, I come away with a new appreciation of couture clothing and this sense of importance that comes from putting so much love and so many hours into one piece of clothing. It makes me question my own irresponsible attitudes toward my clothing and how little I value individual pieces. The exhibition, whilst scathing of the fashion industry’s irresponsible attitude toward its environmental impact, also delves into alternatives to throwaway fashion and explores new, sustainable materials, so the guilt you may experience is combined with some sort of hope for the future. I left feeling inspired to make changes, something that I personally find very rare from exhibitions.

delves into alternatives to throwaway fashion and explores new, sustainable materials

Although this is one of the ticketed exhibitions of the V and A, I strongly believe it is worth a visit. It is on until the end of January so there is still plenty of time to experience this in the flesh.

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