“The images stand out because of their intensity. The exhibition prompts us to think about the place that we, as humans, (want to) assume within nature and amongst other life forms, regardless of whether they might be human or animal or else”, the curator says. Shergill describes, “this exhibition is a celebration of becoming ‘other’ through the performance and continuous transformation of the ‘self’.”
Following the successful photographic exhibition “Humanimal” in West Hollywood, L.A., earlier this year and “Exoskeleton” at gallery@oxo in London recently, a new interpretation of the exhibition now arrives at The Old Bank Vault in East London: “Exoskeleton East”.
Shergill explains that his interest with the subject matter was ultimately “sparked by working with Isabella Blow over 25 years ago”, he adds, “When I asked her why she wore such extravagant clothing, she replied that she wore such garments to ‘protect’ herself. The hats by milliner Philip Treacy that Isabella wore frequently were a metaphorical armour and served as an ‘exoskeleton’ to her body, similar to a beetle with a hard exterior shell”, hence the title of this exhibition. Shergill’s career started under the guidance of Isabella Blow and Alexander McQueen and Shergill notes, “The guidance that they gave me was the start of my long relationship with fashion and art. It was through their mentoring that I gained a particular aesthetic that guides my vision.”
The works that are on show accentuate the intersections between humans and animals. Technology, post-humanism and bio-mimicry are buzzwords in today’s social theory and have become an essential part of thinking about dress, the expression of identity and purpose of appearance through clothing and adornment of the body. Science History Professors Daston and Mitman proclaim: “We are animals; we think with animals” (2005). This shows through anthropomorphism within visual art and popular culture as much as through biomimicry in technology when it comes to materials and forms, such as airplane membranes or streamlined car designs.
The three-dimensional acrylic sculpture in the exhibition has been conceptualised by Daen Palma Huse and Ram Shergill with UK-based PressOn printers. In its three-dimensionality, the piece provokes thought about the sustainability and materiality of garments and design.
Ram Shergill has previously shown at galleries in the UK and worldwide including Sotheby's London, the Victoria & Albert Museum, Whitechapel Gallery and Somerset House. Shergill is known for his portraits of personalities such as Amy Winehouse, Eddie Redmayne and Dame Judi Dench and has recently had his work acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in London. Shergill has continuously produced images for publications such as Vogue, ID and The Face.
The curator Daen Palma Huse works on the interdisciplinary intersection of visual arts, politics and branding and has worked in international cultural relations in The Netherlands, Germany, Mexico and the UK. He is the editor of the biannual publication The Protagonist Magazine and lectures on creative direction, publishing and curatorial practice at Southampton Solent University.