Stephanie Moran ~ 10 - 12 september 2010
 
studio 1.1
london e2

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  'Big Dress Shop'

'In the room the women come and go...' But what women! Encased in fabric splattered and stiffened with paint, dominated by their outfits, halfway between the swagger-portrait gallery and the landfill-site. Paint decorates, and damages as well. Dowager guests at a beauty pageant might well have suffered aggression like this, victims of the outraged feminist gaze. On Sunday 12th afternoon Moran and her sister Natalie will be giving a public demonstration of the process, draping willing models (male and female) in fabric to make personally-fitted, temporary dresses, then splashing them with paint before they’re photographed in formal standing poses.

In a show of dresses – not the same at all as a dress show - Stephanie Moran will be presenting a dozen or more sculpture/paintings (fe/malic moulds?) meant as source material for a new suite of paintings: paintings that don’t yet exist drawn from photographs that include sculptures that used to be dresses. Dresses altered not by a docile seamstress but by the paint flung at or sprayed over them, the circle to be closed when, finally, more paint reproduces them on canvas. These sculptures in fact were part of a photo-shoot, props and backdrop for women who aren’t here – though at the private view they probably will be, mixing with the public, back as part of it – letting the props slide forward into the spotlight: a non-singing, non-dancing chorus line of costumes for other shows, other showgirls.

This is how we move within and between paintings, how we ad-dress ourselves to the painted (and made-up) world, negotiating a path through sign and significance, never quite reaching any haven. Dwarfed by these draperies (what’s been going on here? Is it a protest? Where is everybody?) maybe we comes to our senses. Maybe. It’s only paint on fabric, after all.

'The writing - well, if it was me I would certainly mention Robert Morris' felt sculptures (the drapey skirts of my dresses are made of similarly heavy grey felt), I might mention the Nouveaux Realistes particularly Niki de Saint Phalle - the shooting paintings and the 'Nana' figures, Claes Oldenburg's 'Store', and the sculptures of Meret Oppenheim and Sarah Lucas; the history of dresses in painting, including Madonna and all those men in dresses, Gainsborough and other society portraitists, the Pre-Raphs (including Evelyn de Morgan), etc. Now, we see most of our big dresses in magazines and on red carpets - it's an aspiration, a flimsy one. When I was little I loved watching the black and white films which were on in the daytime - I don't remember any of the titles or storylines, what I was interested in were the dresses, and the best thing was colouring them in myself, in my head.

‘I like the way they conflate sculpture and painting: they are sculptural because dresses are sculptural; dresses define the body, emphasizing various elements of the form, in the way that a painter might; the gestural marks on the dresses emphasize physicality, and the act of painting on a large scale; the sculpture-paintings collapse figure and ground, as paintings. And the dress is a peculiarly, particularly gendered item in an often unisex culture(?) - as worn by women or men, the big dress is read as the extreme feminine - I am not sure that there is an equivalent for masculinity. (Vicars wear 'frocks', perhaps to denote their neuterness? When they stray, they are defrocked.)

I should add, I have an ambivalent relationship with fashion - everyone loves dressing up of course, and it is a creative act; but the fashion industry is a different thing. The big dress is like all those other status symbols, desired by the majority and attained by the few, and its 'prettiness' distracting from the ugly open secrets at the heart of Capitalism.’.

A performance with the artist and fashion designer Natalie Moran took place on Sunday 12th September at 3pm.

studio1.1


For more information or images contact:
Michael Keenan on 07952 986 696