Tristan Hoare is delighted to present FOLDS, an exhibition curated with Flora Hesketh and Omar Mazhar and dedicated to the depiction of folds and drapery.
FOLDS aims to bring into focus a subject which has challenged and interested artists throughout history, but often goes unnoticed. Charting its metamorphosis from the robes of religious figures in ancient sculptures to its emergence in contemporary art, this exhibition aims to reflect on the role of tumbling textures and flowing fabric.
Traditionally, drapery studies were an important exercise in understanding the representation of light and shade and the transition from two to three- dimensionality. Leonardo da Vinci was a notable propagator of such artistic training, stating in his writings the importance of having an awareness of the body beneath the fabric. In this manner, drapery served to cover, but also reveal, the human form. By depicting a swirl of silk dancing around a figure’s ankles, an artist was able to imbue life and movement into his otherwise frozen characters.
Centuries later, the subject continues to be investigated by contemporary artists such Christo and Jeanne-Claude, whose giant folds have transformed iconic buildings and places. Others such as Orsina Sforza and Alison Watt explore the possibility of drapery’s independent existence. Bordering on the abstract, their materials appear to exert energy in an autonomous manner. In Watt’s compositions, the sinuous curves of the ever-looping fabric take on a sensual and erotic role, and her iridescent handling of paint maintains a calm composure reminiscent of Old Master paintings.
This sensuousness which is found in various depictions of drapery is accentuated in a photograph by Richard Learoyd of a woman dressing or undressing. Its alluring power relies on the contrast between skin and fabric, or the exposed and the concealed.
With artists Ritsue Mishima and Yoon Young Hur drapery takes on a life of its own. Moulded in clear glass, the cascading pleats in Mishima’s sculpture transform drapery into an organic and biomorphic being, made to be appreciated from all angles. Meanwhile, Yoon Young Hur’s unfolding blank scroll seems to float on the wall, accentuating the tactile surface and volume of the unravelling form.
FOLDS is not an academic survey of the history of drapery. It aims to display some of its skilled manifestations from ancient cultures to contemporary artists whose continued focus on the subject serves to revitalise its long-celebrated beauty and history.