Dead birds, rats, snakes, lipstick and a Manolo Blahnik heel
Gallery unveils a 'gothic' portrait of Isabella Blow
Thursday 23 September 2010
A cacophony of stuffed animals spot-lit onto a wall to form a portrait silhouette of the late fashion icon Isabella Blow has been acquired by the National Portrait Gallery.
The unusual portrait made of 15 taxidermy animals (including birds, a rat and a snake), wood and fake moss, together with a heel from one of Blow’s own Manolo Blahnik shoes and her trademark lipstick, is a vivid combination of sculpture, installation and light projection.
In the resulting silhouette of a head, Isabella Blow appears to be wearing one of the extraordinary hats designed for her by Phillip Treacy, which often featured taxidermy. The artists were fascinated by what they saw as Blow’s gothic quality and chose to depict her head as though on a stake, incorporating a raven and the species of rat associated with the Black Death.
The work has been donated to the Gallery by the estate of Isabella Blow, who died in 2007, and the artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster who created it from life in 2002. The result of their friendship with Isabella Blow, this is the only portrait by the artists of a person other than themselves.
‘The portrait encourages us to reflect simultaneously on beauty and death,’ says Rosie Broadley, Associate Curator of Contemporary Collections, National Portrait Gallery, London, ‘which embody Blow’s own complex preoccupations.’
During their 15-year partnership, artists Tim Noble (b.1966, Stroud) and Sue Webster (b.1967, Leicester) have produced works that address issues of identity, self-representation and taboo. They are best known for their silhouette self-portraits, where a simple light source transforms a seemingly chaotic assemblage of ordinary objects into a perfect shadow portrait. Works include The Undesirables, 2000 a landscape of household rubbish on which the silhouetted artists appear to sit, contemplating a sunset.
As a journalist, stylist and muse, Isabella Blow (1958-2007) was a leading figure in the development of British fashion in the 1990s and 2000s. She is credited with discovering and promoting the careers of important British designers including Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan, the world’s leading milliner Philip Treacy, and the photographer Juergen Teller.
Working for Vogue (US and UK), Tatler and The Sunday Times Style magazine, Blow’s own flamboyant style made her a muse for several designers. In 1998 her husband Detmar Blow co-founded the contemporary art gallery Modern Art with Stuart Shave, representing young artists including Noble and Webster, who made this portrait. Blow created many iconic fashion shoots which fused fashion with contemporary art.
Artist Sue Webster says: ‘Any portrait of Issy should not be made of sugar and spice and all things nice, but of the darker stuff of life that suited her more Gothic Image. Issy was a great friend of both Tim and myself, she was one of the most enigmatic, powerful and funniest women I have ever met.’
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Caitlyn Jenner's mother Ester thought her daughter, formerly known as Bruce Jenner, had transitioned for money
- 2 Charles Kennedy 1959-2015: A gifted, compassionate politician whose career was cut short by the 'demon drink' - latest news
- 3 Alton Towers crash: Four seriously injured and 16 guests trapped as Smiler ride carriages collide
- 4 Ann Summers survey reveals the UK's favourite sex position
- 5 Gay teenager 'forced to have sex with his own mother' to 'cure' his homosexuality, campaigners in India say
Britain's Got Talent producers apologise for not making Matisse dog double stunt 'clearer'
Britain's Got Talent 2015 final: Jules and Matisse used secret dog double for winning tightrope act
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 9: 'The Dance of Dragons' sees Jon Snow return to The Wall after epic Battle of Hardhome
Britain's Got Talent final 2015: 90 viewers complain to Ofcom about Alesha Dixon and Amanda Holden's 'revealing' dresses
Black Angel: Lost Star Wars precursor to be made into crowdfunded feature film
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Church of England 'one generation away from extinction' after dramatic loss of followers