Monday 25 October 2010

'The Head of Isabella Blow' at The National Portrait Gallery

Having recently visited the National Portrait Gallery whilst waiting for a delayed friend, I came across a portrait of Isabella Blow by Tim Noble and Sue Webster, which felt incredibly well timed in light of all the Blow biographies recently released.

Comprised of a cacophony of stuffed animals dramatically spot-lit to form a portrait silhouette of the late über fashion icon, The Head of Isabella Blow is cleverly made of 15 taxidermy animals (including birds, a rat and a snake). With wood and fake moss sampled, for me the most exciting element is the heel taken from one of Blow’s very own Manolo Blahnik shoes, deftly used to create a vivid combination of sculpture, installation and light projection.

In the resulting silhouette of a head, Blow appears to be wearing one of the extraordinary hats designed for her by milliner Phillip Treacy, whom she made famous. Fascinated by Blow’s gothic quality, Noble and Webster took this one step further and chose to depict her head as though on a stake, incorporating a raven and the species of rat associated with the Black Death, offering a rather grim outlook.

Donated to the Gallery by the estate of Isabella Blow, after her death in 2007, the artwork is a result of Noble and Webster’s friendship with Blow, compounding the fact that this is the only portrait by the artists of a person other than themselves.

Of the portrait 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.’

Image credits: The Head of Isabella Blow, 2002
by Tim Noble (b.1966) and Sue Webster (b.1967)
Photograph by Andy Keate, © National Portrait Gallery, London; sculpture © Tim Noble and Sue Webster.

No comments:

Post a Comment