22.02.2017

Museum visit.

Royal Armoury Collection at White Tower. I wanted to see armours in details, how they exactly looked like and how they were constructed. What interested me in particular was the chainmail that reminded me of those I saw in Cambridge on stained glass. I had the opportunity to try a real chainmail from medieval times. What I learned from that experience is that chainmails were constructed separately - long stockings and a sort of t-shirt. They had a texture of chunky knit though made from steel. It was really complicated to produce a chainmail and it took months to execute one. It was also a matter of craftmanship to do one, so it matches my idea of including hand crafted elements in my project. Some had leather shoes connected into them and small holes finished with leather to adjust the chainmail to the body. These details seem to me particularly interesting, because of their textures and I hope to use them in my designs - the little circles connected one to the other remind me of some of the circular shapes I got from my collages. They really look like knit. I also learned that cheaper version of chainmail was padding. I could try to include that as well eventually. I used padding in my last project and I do not want to be too repetitive.

I also went to Fashion and Textile Museum to see the exhibition of Josef Frank. I hoped to see there something slightly different, yet it gave me some more ideas about contextual development of my project and further references - Arts and Crafts movement and their princpiles of production that I could research in the future. Josef Frank was inspired by what this movement achieved and William Morris as an artist. The review of this exhibition is uploaded below.

 

 EXHIBITION REVIEW 1

 

Designing Eden- Josef Frank's Exhibition at Fashion and Textile Museum

          Josef Frank (1885-1967) was an Austrian architect and designer. Over his life he developed a bold and vibrant style - one may compare to Henri Matisse's late cut outs or paintings (take "The Dessert: Harmony in Red" for example). Born in Vienna into a Jewish family he had to leave in 1933 when the anti-Semitism was rapidly growing and the spectre of war loomed. He was already an accomplished designer by that time. Having completed a doctorate in 1910, becoming a professor shortly after IWW he established his own design company in 1925. Spotted by Estrid Ericson in 1932 he moved to Stockholm to start working as a designer in Svenski Tenn. He became one of the most influential modernists designers of his time whose aesthetics formed what we today recognise as the Swedish design.

Now Fashion and Textile Museum in London offers a unique exhibition presenting more than just a retrospective of an influential figure. Not only displaying his mesmerizing textile designs, rugs or furnitures - the exhibition features a rare collection of Frank?s watercolours. An area of his artistic development that remained unknown until today.

Straight after entering the display a small room furbished only with Frank's designs introduces to his optimistic and rich style. The motives of Eden, spring, blooming flowers and ripe fruits are reoccurring in all of his works - each precisely described providing the visitor with detailed information. Long rolls of printed textiles suspended by the celling allow the viewer to admire his pieces in its whole, almost as paintings. In the soft, delicate light the multi-coloured prints vibrate with its positivity. Designs are displayed alongside drawings and some of them are accompanied by original sofas or armchairs covered with Frank's prints. Welcoming and ready to sit for the viewers they invite the visitors to plunge into Frank's joyful world. However, works are not exhibited in a time-line order which is slightly confusing at some moments as it remains unclear why this certain form was chosen. Same lack of clear methodology can be seen at the end when Frank's connection to Arts and Crafts Movement is being repeatedly presented . If the Arts and Crafts references had been showcased in one place it would make the  connection in Josef Frank's inspiration much clearer.

 

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Exhibition room furbished entierly with Josef Frank's designs. Image taken by me.

 

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"Mirakel",1925-30, designed in Vienna and later produced by Svenski Tenn - Josef Frank's print inspired by William Morris. Image taken by me.

 

The lower floor of the display gives a sense of Josef Frank as a professional designer, his sources of inspiration and style. The second floor, slightly divided from the rest of the exhibition shows another face of Frank - him privately as an artist. As the description says: "Painting made him happy". This becomes immediately clear when looking at his watercolours (with a surprisingly good condition of pigmentation thanks to lack of previous expositions) - idyllic still lives and house designs for his relatives and friends. Both parts together create a full picture of Josef Frank as an artist and as a person.

Throughout whole display the visitors are provided with a clear and well-written description of every room, which certainly broadens the knowledge about the display. All the writing can be also found on the brochure available at the entrance - a way of reflecting and consolidating for the curious ones. Its neat layout and acceptable amount of text makes it easy to read. Although it might have had more illustrations, as this would enhance its composition.

 

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"Italian Dinner",1943-45, designed in New York for Svenski Tenn. Image taken by me.

 

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"The Dessert: Harmony in Red", 1908, Henri Matisse, Hermitage Museum. Image from www.henrimatisse.org .

 

As Henri Matisse famously put it: "What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter - a soothing, calming influence on the mind, rather like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue". Josef Frank created this armchair and Fashion and Textiles Museum invites its visitors to take a seat.

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