EXOSKELETON EAST - UNVEILING THE INNER ANIMAL
Ram Shergill’s photography exhibition, curated by Daen Palma Huse, has travelled from Los Angeles to the OXO Tower and finally made its way to East London. The Old Bank Vault Gallery hosted this incredible exhibition, alongside a panel discussion, where the pair had an opportunity to tell us more about the current exhibition and philosophical approach behind it!
While I have been concentrating on paintings so much, I haven’t visited photography exhibition for a while. Hence, I was very excited to receive an invitation to the opening night of ‘Exoskeleton East’ exhibition.
I was familiar with Ram and Daen’s work through the biannual magazine The Protagonist, however, I had never seen Ram’s photography in person. A series of works, collated under one title ‘Exoskeleton’, explores how we as humans use clothing to shield ourselves from the surrounding world. Dress and clothing almost become an exoskeleton for our bodies. Through multi-layered fluid designs and natural settings, the artist explores the intersection between human and animal.
The exploration and fascination with the subject began for Ram over 25 years ago when he met Isabella Blow. He met Isabella at Philip Treacy’s studio while borrowing hats for a photo shoot. Isabella appeared to Ram as a mysterious character in extravagant clothes. Ram felt like she was a character from 'Alice in Wonderland' and the young photographer asked Isabella why she was dressed like that. Her answer was: 'I do so to protect myself.'
Influenced by Isabella Blow and later on by Alexander McQueen, Ram began his own exploration and interpretation of art and fashion.
What you will see in Ram's work is not literal, each image has a philosophical meaning and approach to it. The artist is asking questions such as 'What different roles do we play in everyday life?' and 'Why is it so seductive for us to become other?' He transforms identity, celebrates culture and demonstrates flexibility and the new patterns of our lives - all through the art of photography, together with his collaborator Daen Palma Huse, who works directly on creative direction, concept, set design and the details in many of the images displayed!
However, it is not only an image that carries the message, it is also the representation of it. Daen Palma Huse talks about the curating process behind Exoskeleton East:
"It all started with the 'Human - Animal' exhibition in LA, then the ‘Exoskeleton’ exhibition took place in OXO Tower and now you can see the new interpretation of it here at The Old Bank Vault Gallery. Each exhibition has been different. The process of curating reminded me of a snake shedding its skin. There are similarities, but each exhibition is different. You have to understand and appreciate the space in order to respond to it. Each image has been represented differently in each space. This time we tried different techniques in printing and multi-layering of materials. This way images start to interact with the viewer and evoke different senses."
Applied techniques in printing definitely make a huge difference, not only does the idea of multilayering have a direct connection to the idea of multi-layered personalities and roles that we take on every day, it also helps the viewer to interact with a piece of art. It was amazing to see the use of mirrors on a number of prints. Reflective surface starts to interact with the surrounding context and the viewer, whilst constantly changing depending on the time of the day or a light condition.
“Colour also became an important aspect in curating this exhibition,” says Daen. One of the walls in the front room is painted in a warm, summery yellow which works well with the exposed brick wall in the next room. This is paired with almost gold images printed on mirrors!
“Colour was a prime inspiration for me. It makes people happier!” – Daen
It was very refreshing to see a gallery, which is not your typical white space. The Old Bank Vault Gallery is a concept store as well as a gallery. Therefore, art here can be seen in a domestic setting and scale, one can imagine what it’s like to live with art, rather than experience art in a perfectly white, empty space. Here art, furniture and eclectic objects work together in a perfect ensemble.
It was great to delve into the world of high fashion and glamour, but to also learn more about fashion photography and really start questioning how we use clothes and what role they play in our everyday life. Thank you for beautifully curated, inspiring show!