CULTURE

Art and fashion, an interesting crossover in the world today

Images that do not directly refer to a product but build stories and moods that are often unrelated to the product being launched: This is one of the most prevalent techniques that contemporary advertising increasingly relies on to achieve a strong effect. The result is that advertising imagery – fashion photography is one of the best examples – has become, in many instances, indistinguishable from contemporary art imagery, with the context in which each is presented as the only factor telling them apart. As the market expands, both for the more mass-produced objects and for art, the crossover between art and advertisement as well as between art and fashion or design is enhanced, and a growing number of visual artists are entering the fields of advertisement, magazine illustration and fashion. Advertisement is not quite advertising in the conventional sense – communication would be a more accurate term – nor are fashion or art clearly defined categories. Visual artists are often found collaborating with designers on the image of a line, the setting of a runway collection or the promotion of a product. It could be anything from advertisement to the presentation of a collection, from the more commercial aspects of fashion to its more insular sides. The active and creative involvement of British photographer Marcus Tomlinson with the world of fashion is an example of this sophisticated merging between two realms that for some, are still held apart. Although not «advertisement» in the narrow sense – of images that are reproduced in popular magazines or shown on television – his work does fall within this general category of art appropriated by fashion and design. Tomlinson has worked with the world-renowned Japanese designer Issey Miyake and the experimental Turkish-Cypriot designer Hussein Chalayan. A video that he did for the launch of Miyake’s «Fete» collection in 2002 and the celebration of 10 years since the perfume L’Eau d’Issey as well as a one-minute video for Hussein Chalayan’s collection are being shown at the «Ptychoseis: Folds and Pleats» exhibition that opened a few days ago at the new building of the Benaki Museum on Pireos Street, organized by the Cultural Olympiad and the Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation. Seeking to show the connection between art and fashion, Vassilis Zidianakis, who is the exhibition’s artistic director and co-curator together with Ioanna Papantoniou, also commissioned Tomlinson (through Atopos, which is his firm that specializes in artistic collaborative projects) with «Infusion,» a video on the theme of the traditional Greek fustanella. Zidianakis was interested in presenting a traditional, folk garment in a contemporary manner and thought of water as a central motif and a subtle metaphor for «re-baptizing» an item loaded with symbolism. With these general guidelines in mind, Tomlinson produced a black-and-white video, his first that is not directly related to a fashion designer. All three videos show Tomlinson’s interest in exploring the realm between video, film and still photography. Playing with stillness and movement and with how one is transformed into the other is a typical aspect of his work. An example of this is the lenticular images (images that seem still but change as one walks by them) that Tomlinson has made for the Issey Miyake stores worldwide. Miyake spotted Tomlinson through the latter’s work at the British alternative fashion magazine i-D. He invited him to make a film for his A-POC range in 2001, which was shown at the Vitra Design museum. There followed the video for the «Fete» collection (it was first shown at the Yvone Lambert gallery in Paris during the Paris fashion week in the spring of 2002), perhaps the most lyric video of the three shown at the «Ptychoseis» exhibition, a work that captures the strange combination of austerity and fragility, minimalism and transparency of the Issey Miyake line. «After Words,» which is the Hussein Chalayan video (it was first shown at the 2000 Avignon Festival) moves faster, somewhat in a rhythm of an animation film with one shot following another in quick succession. Based on an idea that Chalayan had on creating a domestic environment flexible enough to be packed together at moments of urgency, the video begins with the stark image of a table and four chairs in which four models suddenly appear (the video was originally shown in the setting that it illustrates). The furniture acquire slipcovers and those are abruptly turned into clothes which the models put on; the chairs then fold up into suitcases and everything becomes packed together, ready to depart. Garments that come to life is a recurring theme in Tomlinson’s work including the recent «Infusion.» The Chalayan piece in its original version (combined with the actual setting) was shown at the Tate Gallery and was bought by the Musee d’Art Moderne in Luxembourg. It is one of the few instances that a work made for fashion enters an art museum. Tomlinson, who visited Athens on the occasion of the exhibition, said that his work would not have been accepted in the more commercial sector of fashion and that a more mainstream environment would not have been compatible with his work. He also said that the French fashion industry is much more open to ideas coming from art than in the UK, where one is more likely to become recognized after his or her work has been accepted abroad. Despite the difficulty he might be facing in his own country, Tomlinson has succeeded in working with some of the most reputable names in the world of international fashion. His work, a hybrid of art and fashion photography/video, illustrates the sophistication with which certain fashion designers present their creations and show the porous divisions between fashion and art. It is a connection that the «Ptychoseis» exhibition makes a point of putting across. «Ptychoseis,» at the Benaki Museum (138 Pireos) through August 31.