Close Up at the V&A Friday 26th September 2008
I’ve always been greatly inspired by Nick Thornton-Jones and Warren du Preez. Their approach is frequently to eschew the well-trodden commercial line and to play on the borders of art, fashion, technology and science. When I heard that they were giving a talk at the V&A about their work, I nearly wet myself with excitement and I made sure I got down there pretty early to get in line, not dreaming that I’d manage to get a chance to see them. I couldn’t believe my luck when I got to the front of the queue and was told that there were seats available.
The talk was on in the National Art Library and before the talk started we were invited by Warren and Nick to browse around various images from the archives. There were prints by Julia Margaret-Cameron, Man Ray, Moholy Nagy, Eadweard Muybridge and others. It was amazing to see these images from the archives up close and personal.
During the talk, Nick and Warren described their working methods while showing a slideshow of their work. They admitted they were a little nervous about talking about their work as they had never done so in such a context before. I felt especially privileged to be there when I heard this. They described their method as ‘trying to recreate in camera, what used to be done in the dark room’. And although there is often a lot of post production in some of their work – they mentioned ‘render farms’ processing their work for weeks – they aim to capture the bulk of what they do in camera. The work that they had lain out for us was all relevant to their practice too – solarisation was a favourite technique of Man Ray’s and the creation of pictograms was a favourite method of Lazlo Moholy-Nagy. Coincidentally there was a Hungarian sat beside me.
The slideshow was really mind blowing – what has mostly stuck in my mind was the work they did with Alexander McQueen. And I shit you not when I said the hairs stood up on the back of my neck. There was something chthonic, elemental, raw and occult-like about this series. They admitted themselves that the shoot had been something of a happening whereby they were in the grip of forces beyond themselves, of an energy that was more than the sum of the players in the shoot.
Ultimately I think it was very brave of them to reveal so much of their practice in public. There were a few moments where Warren interrupted Nick with phrases like ‘without revealing too much of our methods’ and would turn the talk in another direction. Nonetheless I was quite inspired. To see more of their work, have a look here: Warren Du Preez, Nick Thornton-Jones
and I’ve borrowed a few of their images from their UK Agent’s website Artist Representation/Management
I hope they don’t sue my ass for it.