Category Archives: exhibitions

2021 ➤ New photos to rekindle the spirit of Brummie icons Kahn and Bell

Fashion, Swinging 80s, Gary Lindsay-Moore, Kahn & Bell, Birmingham Rag Market, Damien,

Photographed by Gary Lindsay-Moore for his show It’s Not Unusual: Damien models a vintage Kahn and Bell dress


❚ ART PHOTOGRAPHER Gary Lindsay-Moore was a teenager when he caught the bus from Tamworth to Birmingham city centre to search out a boutique he had been hearing rumours about. Heading on to Hurst Street, he stepped into the emporium created by designers Patti Bell and Jane Kahn – and discovered a whole new world.

“I had no money,” he says, “but went in and there was Patti although I didn’t know it was Patti at the time. I just saw this seven-foot Amazon with massive blonde spiked hair, a massive set of heels and leather and chains. And it was ‘Oh, my goodness, this is amazing’. I felt I’d found my cultural home – this was the kind of excitement I was looking for. The significance for me was profound.”

Together, in the late Seventies, Kahn and Bell revolutionised the city’s fashion scene. They were at the vanguard of punk and new romanticism, creating hand-made clothes for a host of pop icons including Birmingham’s own Duran Duran, Eurovision winners Bucks Fizz and music and dance group Shock.

Talked of as Birmingham’s Vivienne Westwood, Kahn and Bell gave people the opportunity to dress to express. And now, 45 years after their shop opened in 1976 in the city’s emerging Gay Quarter, Gary is paying homage to their innovation with a photography exhibition featuring some of their original flamboyant clothing. The exhibition is called It’s Not Unusual as a nod to Patti’s close relationship with music stars of the era including her friendship with singer Tom Jones.

Gary set about capturing the spirit of experimentation and freedom which Kahn and Bell encapsulated in a series of new images of their creations worn by some equally dramatic models. Between July 27–30 the free show runs at Birmingham’s Rag Market, where Patti also ran a stall.

i-D Magazine,Fashion, Swinging 80s, Gary Lindsay-Moore, Kahn & Bell, Birmingham Rag Market,

Kahn and Bell profiled in i-D Magazine No 5, while Shock’s Tik & Tok are seen modelling


One challenge lay in the clothes themselves. “A minor issue was that all these clothes were quite small, like sizes six or eight,” Gary says. “A lot of the photography I do is about body positivity, acceptance and individuality and I didn’t want to just use a skinny model. I wanted people who were modelling them to have the Kahn and Bell spirit.”

Gary tracked down local models with an individual sense of flair including some of the region’s best-known drag artists such as Birmingham’s Twiggy, who had a personal reason for wanting to be involved, having worked for Kahn and Bell in the past.

“I’m not trying to update pictures of Kahn and Bell which already exist,” Gary says. “It’s about putting my spin on the show, so all the models I’ve pictured did their own make-up although we talked about it beforehand to make sure it reflected the make-up of the time. There is lots of make-up, glitter and stick-on gemstones. They all look amazing.”

“I like pictures that work with sub-levels, so I’ve included some references people might spot. Patti and I are both big fans of the film Blade Runner and in one of my favourite scenes in that film there are lots of mannequins so I’ve added mannequins to some of the pictures as a tribute.

“I’m going to be there in the Rag Market and am happy to chat to people, especially those who don’t already know Kahn and Bell who can ask questions and then do a bit of research themselves. We have so much information at our fingertips now but 45 years ago it was all word of mouth.”

Gary has created a book around the project and has already presented Patti with her copy as a recent birthday present.

Birmingham, Fashion, Swinging 80s, Kahn & Bell,

Kahn and Bell in their early years, courtesy of Patti’s son Dylan Gibbons


➢ Prints of his images will also be available to buy on Gary’s website

❚ It’s Not Unusual runs July 27–30, 9am–5pm, at St Martin’s Rag Market, Edgbaston Street, Birmingham B5 4RB (tel 0121 464 8349)

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2020 ➤ Saatchi hosts those Gen Z degree shows you missed

London Grads Now, SaatchiGallery, fine art, exhibition, UAL,

Hamish Pringle, Wimbledon: Lockdown 2020, digital print on canvas

❚ GENERATION Z ARE REPUTED to feel a bit down about the world bequeathed by their parents and the work of this summer’s art-school graduates has caught that mood – not to mention the lockdown blues. Their tutors seem to agree, at least in the synopses posted on the walls of a selling exhibition titled London Grads Now, hosted by the Saatchi Gallery in its new guise as a charity. [Update – Since extended from three to five weeks.]

This welcome but rum snapshot – many of its 150 artists were allowed to show only one work each – follows in the wake of this year’s cancelled graduation shows and expresses such zeitgeisty themes as political extremism, coronavirus and racial controversy. Many are largely sanguine about the new normals, except perhaps the feisty Black British History Quilt, which celebrates black artists, writers and figureheads including an 18th-century fop, by CSM’s Jahnavi Inniss and also Blackness (The Manifesto) by Michael Forbes at the RCA whose prosaic exhortations are listed on a vast board. Empassioned though this wall of words is, it does prompt the question, yes, but is it art?

Students and tutors have done the selecting and while there are impressively few copycat themes which often infect whole degree shows, there is a trend for titles to embark on narrative excursions, as for example these: Suddenly as if the moon trembled under my feet and every direction revealed itself … or Sleeping with the Enemy: Oscillations of a Fleshly Organ within a Jihady Cavity … or Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around.

The tutors offer portentous “artist’s statements” to introduce each of seven London colleges spread across as many galleries. Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon’s declare: “In a world gone crazy, I’m a wild one”. In this year of cultural ruptures, conventions have been abandoned as students reflect issues of the moment: lockdown, the lure of nature, identity, gender fluidity and post-colonialism.

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Topping this page you see an elegant but tough take on Lockdown by Wimbledon’s Hamish Pringle – a human eye photographed peering out from a head helmeted by what looks like a coil of rusty steel but, as Hamish comments below, is actually industrial sandpaper belting. At the foot of the page is a ghoulish family portrait painted on traditional canvas by Wimbledon’s Xinan Yang with the title I Still Care. . . while from Camberwell there is an in-yer-face clash between rustic rapture and urban sexuality in Fag Attacks the Country starring the artist himself Claudio Pestana.

A Goldsmiths tutor talks of reconciling crushed dreams and aspirations and in a wall-hanging textile Slay Within by Anosha Khan we see an axe-wielding dreamer dealing with her nightmares. Elsewhere four fluorescent tubes inscribed with a romantic verse by Daniel Keler titled Love Letter to a Stone actually support half a dozen varieties of rock evoking different eras in the Earth’s evolution.

The Royal College of Art curator dwells on “escapism, resilience, beauty in the mundane” and appropriately Alejandro Villa Duran selects a spartan wardrobe on a wire hanger, titled Running until the end of the world as only lovers are left alive. Quian Jiang’s One Minute of Photographic Time collages 60 separate snaps of a seascape which proves utterly mesmerising the longer you stare… Yang Xu’s Missing you is like Fire is painted in oil on synthetic carpet… while Emily Moore’s Chained is a huge lockdown collaboration in crocheted black yarn.

The Slade School curator reminds us to “breathe in and breathe out” when contemplating lessons learnt recently about cultural identities. This is evident in Khushna Sulaman-Butt’s Ascension, a powerful group portrait painted in oil which maintains tension between photographic realism and caricature. In one of the show’s rare videos Anna Baumgart transforms herself wittily into various female relations in Fitting in with Nanny, Mutti, Mum and Omi.

The Central Saint Martins curators conclude by suggesting that, in this post-truth era, nostalgia could gain new relevance, “not as a malaise in longing for a past moment, but as a proactive and sentimental yearning for continuity”, all exemplified in Legs by CSM’s Rowan Riley. Let’s call this one of the few pieces of sculpture in the show. The legs are made from filled cotton and bear personal messages and familiar quotations embroidered with colourful metallic and cotton thread: “Are you going to Scarborough Fair?” and “This is a portrait of a green-eyed lady”. Either a whopping wallow in nostalgia or a necessary a kick up the 2020s?

London Grads Now, SaatchiGallery, fine art, exhibition, UAL,

Xinan Yang, Wimbledon: I Still Care, 2018, acrylic and oil on canvas

➢ Book tickets for London Grads Now at Saatchi Gallery
London, extended until 11 October 2020 – exhibition supported
by Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery

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2020 ➤ Hockney’s drawings lay bare the artist’s soul in the shifting sands of time

David Hockney, Drawing from Life, National Portrait Gallery, Reviews,

Fashion designer Celia Birtwell: drawn in crayon by Hockney in Hollywood, 1984 (detail)

◼ TWO OF OUR LEADING newspaper art critics have blown hot and cold over the new exhibition of David Hockney’s portraits titled Drawing From Life at the National Portrait Gallery in London. The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones awarded it five stars, raving in the most civilised way about the artist’s skill as a “graphic master” in this “the most dazzling display of his art I have ever seen”. Some praise!

However, the Times headlined its two-star review “Hockney gets hackneyed” while critic Rachel Campbell-Johnston complained that the show is repetitive: “less a fresh look at an innovative talent than a restricted rehash of what was just a small part of other previous shows”.

After two hours examining the 150 portraits large and small, many of them familiar images spanning six decades, I confess to having a foot in both camps. From the outset as a schoolboy Hockney’s eye for a spare line portraying fine detail was breathtakingly meticulous and, if you accept that capturing the eyes is the secret to any portrait, you will be thrilled to your imaginative roots by studying these 150 pairs of eyes up close! It’s a time-worn truism to say that you must visit an art gallery in the flesh because viewing reproductions in print or online can never do justice to an original painting or drawing. Here up close to Hockney’s strokes, in pencil, pastel, charcoal or etching, they are so evidently masterly, whether hair-fine or gesturally bold. The length of some lines is prodigious and intriguing to follow.

But yes, by the time I reached the final two rooms I’d already had enough, a mood that was visibly expressed there on the faces of the three friends who’d modelled for the great man for ever and again: onetime boyfriend Gregory Evans, designer Celia Birtwell and printer Maurice Payne. Hockney’s most recent frank portrayals of this visibly timeworn trio were not remotely flattering and they leave you wondering to what extent those forbearing friendships have been tested! Celia even told the Guardian her new chubby portrayal was “horrible” though conceding, “That’s life: One gets old”.

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David Hockney, Drawing from Life, National Portrait Gallery, Reviews,

The final gallery in Drawing From Life: the most recent and frank portraits of Celia, Maurice & Co.

In her Times review, Rachel C-J was essentially dumping on the predictable curation of this NPG show and especially the “lacklustre finale” that had required Hockney to redraw each of his subjects during 2019. She readily acknowledges his master draughtsmanship and his preoccupation with eroding distance “so that we can all come closer together”. Intimacy and mood are the keynotes to portraying his friends and RCJ happily recognises the portraits of his mother too as “magically intimate, subtle and tender”.

Much of this goes for his expressive self-portraits, some of which we view on vertical video screens which animate their progress as iPad drawings and always prove mesmerising. Many of the self-portraits are intense, starting with a precocious clutch executed in his late teens. Jonathan Jones makes much of Hockney’s learning curve: “What makes this exhibition so staggering is the picture it builds of a man who has never stopped learning”, ever since Picasso’s work imparted to him the essence of simplicity. And of staying alive to the world around us. Do go. There’s always pleasure to be had from the detail in a Hockney.

David Hockney, Drawing from Life, National Portrait Gallery, Reviews,

Old friends reunited at the National Portrait Gallery last week: Maurice Payne, Celia Birtwell, David Hockney and Gregory Evans. (Photo: David Parry)

➢ Hockney: Drawing From Life runs 27 February to 28 June 2020 at the National Portrait Gallery, before it closes for refurbishment

➢ The David Hockney Foundation archive

➢ Elsewhere at Shapers of the 80s:
1983, Britain’s favourite painter discovers a truer
way of seeing, with help from Proust

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➤ The makings of Scarlett, a perfect muse for the Eighties

DuoVision , Scarlett Woman, Photography, painting, sculpture, exhibition, Swinging Eighties, The Gallery Liverpool,

Scarlett Cannon at her preview: flanked by DuoVision curators James Lawler and Martin Green. (Photo © Melanie Smith)

WHICH ICON OF THE EIGHTIES catapulted herself to fame using a single name, sculpted hair and red lips? The clue is in the exhibition title just opened in Liverpool: Scarlett Woman. The Gallery in Stanhope Street is crammed with dozens of instantly recognisable images of her in all media – posters, prints, drawings, photos, videos, holograms, mosaics, sculpture and even painting. Fortunately the savviest interpreter of 80s style is at hand to make sense of the life and times of Scarlett Cannon, since she began fronting a club-night called Cha-Cha in 1981. In a guide to the exhibition, the lynchpin fashion editor Iain R Webb outlines how he promoted her career as model and muse.

He writes with intense concision: “It was a time of transformation and transgression, self-expression and collective empowerment. I was immediately taken by Scarlett’s uniqueness, an individual look being our club-kid rallying cry. With her startling peroxide blond haircut and a profile almost as flat as her reflection in the mirror she was magnificent!”

Scarlett says: “I wanted to look like a black and white photograph.” And Webb was happy to oblige, styling her in fashion spreads for BLITZ magazine. “She was an ideal made real, the perfect muse. We shared a common aim: to present our version of the world that celebrated difference and redefined beauty.” Scarlett, he reports, emerged from London’s demi-monde “artfully constructed from captured moments from yesteryear movies and imagined narratives. We made it up as we went along. . . Scarlett has always lived on the outskirts.” She adds: “It was extreme, we were really not afraid and we lived in a different world then.”

DuoVision , Scarlett Woman, The Gallery Liverpool,

Scarlett with Maude, alongside David Hiscock’s 1985 photograph, scarfed by Hermès. (Liverpool photo by Marc Albert)

Never before has there been such a perfect summary of the ingredients that made the Swinging Eighties unique, though Webb’s consummate book As Seen in Blitz: Fashioning ’80s Style came close in 2013. Coincidentally that was the year that Scarlett was visible across London as the poster girl for the V&A’s brave exhibition Club to Catwalk, a sharp retrospective nailing London fashion in the Eighties.

What’s impressive about the Liverpool retrospective mounted by the DuoVision team James Lawler and Martin Green is the number of artists whose work it embraces. . . Andrew Logan, Derek Jarman, Nick Knight, Robyn Beeche, Monica Curtin, Mark Lebon, Thomas Degen, Donald Urquhart, David Hiscock, Julian Kalinoswki, Sadie Lee, Judy Blame and others – most intriguingly the Polish expressionist painter Feliks Topolski, whose huge Punk Triptych makes a rare outing.

VIDEO TOUR BY MARK JORDAN

➢ Scarlett Woman runs until 15 September at The Gallery Liverpool, 41 Stanhope St, Liverpool, L8 5RE

➢ Gender-bending 1980s muse paints the town Scarlett – review in the Art Newspaper

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: Scarlett from i-D cover girl to glamorous gardening mode

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
2013, Webb’s flipside of the 80s fashion revolution

DuoVision , Scarlett Woman, Photography, painting, sculpture, exhibition, Swinging Eighties, The Gallery Liverpool,

Scarlett Cannon with a slice of history: Feliks Topolski’s enormous Punk Triptych en route to Liverpool

REMEMBERING TOPOLSKI

➢ Feliks Topolski’s reputation reaches back to King George V’s silver jubilee while his monumental postwar mural of people and events called Topolski Century was unveiled by the Duke of Edinburgh and housed in the artist’s studio in the Hungerford Bridge arches beside the Festival Hall, where his legacy at Bar Topolski today is well worth a visit. His caricatures adorned the opening credits of John Freeman’s landmark series of TV interviews, Face to Face.

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2019 ➤ The nerve of Neil Matthews! Offering bunny ears to those oh-so cool Eighties pop stars

Photography, book launch, exhibition, pop music, Neil Mackenzie Matthews, Jealous Gallery, Take That,

Take That in 1993: cheering to camera for a Smash Hits shoot by Neil Matthews

ANOTHER FAB BOOK OF PHOTOS capturing mainly the 80s pop scene came out this week and it’s a bit of curio. We who were there know how British music and fashion utterly transformed youth culture during the decade from 1980 onwards and among the 110+ new acts who dominated the sales charts in the first four years probably the majority achieved international fame and fortune. But Neil Mackenzie Matthews, in his beautifully printed 192-page book, titled Snap: Music Photography, also reminds us of the names of many acts we have forgotten and who had limited success.

It has become a truism that soon after the Beat Route’s Friday club-night opened in Soho and Spandau Ballet entered the singles chart, both in November 1980, virtually every young guy you met in the club was “putting a band together”, usually managed by another young guy of his own age. For every 110 new-wave acts across the UK who won the standard one-album-and-two-singles deal from a grateful record industry which had lost its way, there were probably 1,000 more who didn’t – yet they too were a vital part of the great collaborative force that was helping to reshape entertainment and media in the Eighties.

At Thursday’s book launch in Shoreditch’s Jealous gallery, Neil described how his own good luck was in attending the same Islington school as the Spandau Ballet posse, Dame Alice Owen’s, and at the very moment he missed getting a first job at the BBC, Spandau invited him to St Tropez on their first foreign booking so he took a camera along and taught himself how to shoot.

Photography, Nick Heyward ,book launch, exhibition, pop music, Neil Mackenzie Matthews, Jealous Gallery,

Neil Matthews and Nick Heyward photo-bombed by Neal Whitmore of Sigue Sigue Sputnik. Just in shot at left, Heyward pictured in his woolly leggings period with Haircut One Hundred. (Photo by Shapersofthe80s)

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As luck had it, within months Tim Lott and Barry Cain’s chirpy new music magazine Flexipop decided its irreverent role was to prick the egos of their mates, the newly jumped-up pop stars, and Neil as its photographer was expected to rewrite the rules of the game. This appealed to his own wild ways and because he was invariably working against the clock, he injected a note of spontaneity into popstar shoots by inventing a box of larky props with which to confront his celebrity models and expect them to respond on camera. Result: pix of Toyah Willcox all smiles in floppy bunny ears, and Ian McCulloch contemptuously prodding the matching bunch of carrots after he declined to wear the bunny ears. There’s also Edwin Collins canoodling a rubber chicken and Jaz Coleman delivering a blunt message in a book to his rivals.

Impromptu set-ups catch Suggs at a fruit and veg stall on the street, Tim Burgess atop a packing case in Tesco’s, and Malcolm McLaren doing business on the phone. The book features several candid snaps following the rise of Spandau Ballet and the New Romantics including an exclusive of Steve Norman sporting speedos at home in the lounge between his fishtanks and Harry Dog. Neil offers very few live performance pix but the two best capture Little Richard bantering atop his piano and a fleeting glimpse of Nick Heyward closing his eyes in an Albert Hall performance.

Some of Neil’s best straight portraits take a traditional approach and yet clearly capture a shared moment of trust between subject and lensman: we see sexy candid shots of Madonna relaxed, of Betty Boo sultry in leopardskin and of Beyoncé Knowles as a very come-hither 17-year-old before she dropped the surname. For me the two cracking shots in this book show Take That snarling something worse than “Cheese!” at the camera (top), and Jay Aston of Bucks Fizz seated on the loo in her hotel (below). If that doesn’t testify to trust what does?

PS: Sorry, Neil, I have to reveal that I scooped you with the “first” kiss between Jon Moss and Boy George wearing Westwood a full year before Culture Club and your own shot where they both wear Sue Clowes.

Photography, book launch, exhibition, pop music, Neil Mackenzie Matthews, Jealous Gallery, Jay Aston

Jay Aston 1984: caught at her hotel by Neil Matthews

➢ Neil MacKenzie Matthews’ career went on to embrace fashion, international celebrity and advertising, but his book Snap: Music Photography (Red Planet, £30 in hardback) focusses essentially on the music scene

➢ Neil Mackenzie Matthews’ prints are visible online and for sale at the Jealous Gallery, 37 Curtain Road, EC2A 3PT

➢ View Neil’s wider portfolio at his own website

HEYWARD THE LEGEND BACK ON THE ROAD

Nick Heyward, live, Gibson Sunburst

Nick with his Gibson Sunburst 330, 1967

❏ One incidental pleasure at the gallery was to catch up with Nick Heyward for the first time since I snapped him with his sidekick Les as Wag club regulars a lifetime ago. Today he features in a daffy trio of Neil’s pix of Haircut One Hundred from 1982 and he’s as friendly and talkative as his ever-present smile suggests. He has been on the road this year with his UK Acoustic Tour, a series of intimate dates where audiences were treated to hits from his breezy and escapist seventh solo album, Woodland Echoes, plus others from his entire career. The album is a distinctly musical treat which Pop Matters reviewed as “a timeless, infectious gem”, adding: “He looks like that cool college professor all the students want to hang out with – and he seems to be at peace with his status as a 50-something indie pop legend”. More news at Nick’s own website .

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