Fashion Focus

Jonathan Anderson Explores The Human Form

Northern Irish designer Jonathan Anderson explores the human form in art, fashion and design in a major exhibition at the Hepworth Wakefield Gallery. Titled “Disobedient Bodies”, this show displays a selection of sculptures, alongside notable fashion pieces and objects of crafts and design.

by Grete Simkuté

Jonathan Anderson is best known for his London-based personal brand JW Anderson and his work for the Spanish house of Loewe. His designs are often influenced by explorations of ideas of gender and identity, a theme that also shaped the curatorial choices he made for this particular exhibition. The show at the Hepworth Wakefield Gallery in Wakefield, by many considered as one of the main contemporary art temples of England, brings together over 100 works from 40 artists which in some way or other relate to the human body. With fashion, art, design and photography on show, the boundaries between different creative fields are dissolved.

Oversized jumpers turn into abstract forms

In an exhibition video, Anderson says: 'I think we live in a period where we’re surrounded by so much imagery. This exhibition is not dictating, but asking questions: how do you feel when seeing two things put next to each other? I am excited about the dialogue that comes into being when these two characters speak to each other.' Throughout the gallery, Anderson has purposefully placed figurative art works from Magali Reus, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and many others along fashion pieces by designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Rei Kawabuko, Helmut Lang and Vivienne Westwood to create a 'direct, immediate dialogue'. At the centre of the space, Anderson created an interactive installation of oversized jumpers that visitors can put on to transform their own bodies into abstract shapes by stretching the knitted tubes with their arms and legs.

The gallery as an intimate space

Using fabric from JW Anderson’s own archive, London-based architecture agency 6a architects transformed the gallery into a series of interlocking ‘rooms’. The frames, made from different materials such as gauze and corduroy, conjure an intimate feeling that makes the gallery accessible. Another highlight comes from a collaboration between Anderson and photographer Jamie Hawkesworth, during which the two explored different fabrics and how they can turn the human body into sculptural forms. As one example of such exploration, Hawkesworth snapped 123 local schoolchildren wearing the exhibited pieces prior to the show.

'Art is looking at fashion'

Through 'Disobedient Bodies', Anderson not only hoped to reflect on 'the different ways that we consume images today', but also to give visitors an idea of the things that inspire his own work as a designer. It is no secret that Anderson has a long standing passion for modern art: he is a vivid collector of early British textiles, black and white photography and abstract sculptures. 'Art is looking at fashion, fashion is looking at art', said Anderson to Business of Fashion. At a time when ‘fashion’ seems to be synonymous with mere notions of consumption, Anderson provides the opportunity to look at clothes as something that can be appreciated in the same way as a piece of art.

'Disobedient Bodies' is on view at the Hepworth Wakefield Gallery in Wakefield, UK until June 18 2017,