Published 27 July 2019
The recent exhibition at Cecil Court Gallery saw the walls glimmering with gold leaf backdrops for glamorous female figures parading under the bright lights with their ink-stained dresses. These fabulous figures are the work of artist Bridget Davies, whose formal training began in the fashion industry, having studied Fashion and Textiles. After teaching fashion illustration and working in fashion design Davies returned to her love of illustrating figures.
Davies draws on the splendour of Forties and Fifties fashion, having been inspired by the transitions of the era and fashion illustrators of the time. In 1947, Christian Dior showcased his first collection that would go on to revolutionise the current fashion trends. Due to the Second World War, fabric had been rationed and uniforms were a predominate statement amongst both men and women. Dior’s collection projected a ‘New Look’ on to women’s fashion, cinching in the waist line and elongating the skirts for a simple and elegant silhouette, that we can see is replicated also in Davies’ illustrations. Furthermore, as with Dior’s new outlook on fashion, the renewed energy encouraged a new way of thinking that allowed women to express themselves through fashion, making it fun and flirtatious. The figures in Davies’ paintings embody these new ideas giving character to each individual depicted.
Bridget Davies draws inspiration directly from Dior for the new works in this exhibition, having visited the Victoria and Albert Museum which is currently hosting the exhibition Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams. Davies specifically references the exhibition in respect to the dress seen in Flirting in Green; reinforcing the influence he continues to have on her works.
This new sense of freedom can also be seen through Davies use of ink. As a medium, ink is difficult to control. Davies uses her experience to contain the ink in order to create the effect she likes but the ink also provides the opportunity for chance and freedom. To create these works, Davies has expressed; a certain balance has to occur between the controlled gestures and the fluidity of the ink. By giving over to chance, the paintings express a sense of liberation as the spontaneity of the ink renders the dresses. Davies’ methods create the foundation for the sense of effortless elegance that exudes from these confident female figures.
Though fashion is a principle influence, Davies also uses her own experiences and voyeuristic practices to inject an element of fun and coyness to the figures. For example, the simple phrase ‘Shall we shan’t we’, as titled above, is ambiguous. Often collected from mid conversation or passers-by these unfinished sentences help to create a narrative. The intrigue lies in the portion of the story that is untold, meaning the viewer has to use their imagination. What exactly are these two deliberating about? The mind conjures up the many different scenarios this could lead to; for me, it creates an air of mischief that is wonderfully mysterious and innocently humorous.
If you would like to see the full collection of paintings from ‘Bridget Davies: All Dressed Up’, please click here.