Vanitas: Death and Decadence in East London [NSFW]

LOOKBOOKS.com contributor Catrin Davies explores an exhibition celebrating the European Vanitas art movement of the 15th and 16th century. See her musings here on FashionIndie.

With some people already writing the obituary for East London, what better way to deal with the death of creativity than with an event that plays on Dorian Gray levels of condemned vanity? The setting is a National Trust Tudor mansion in the unlikely heart of Homerton in East London, and the idea is based on the 15th and 16th century European Vanitas art movement – a self-obsession with beauty, death, decay and debauchery. Think skulls and butterflies, not a million miles away from what Damien Hirst is currently showing at Tate Modern.

A clutch of contemporary artists living and working in Hackney were invited by the innovative Horsebox Gallery, a mobile, pop-up gallery-on-wheels concept, to instigate a takeover of the Tudor property, originally built in 1531 for Sir Ralph Sadleir.

Some of the most evocative art works come from Sophia Schorr-Kon, whose still-life photographs of tumble weave, rotting flowers and pig-headed humans were staged in an East London squat, capturing the fine line between narcissism and partying too hard. Eat, drink, wear tumble weave, then die.

Throughout the house, original Tudor-era artworks are side-by-side with their contemporary counterparts. At the centre is a banquet table, arranged by set designer Alice Hodge, around which diners gorged themselves on a five-course banquet during the opening week of the event.

Nearby is the cast of Ilu? Hauck da Silva’s minute torso, which she cast after prolonged wear of a restricting corset. The visible indents and scarring are testement to the destructiveness of vanity. But then again, there’s no excuse for an elasticated waist at a 16th century dinner party.

Vanitas runs at Sutton House, London until May 1st 2012. See the original post at LOOKBOOKS.com.


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