More Yarn Will Do The Trick

Friday, 20 April 2012

Pop Art

I wanted everyone to retain the grace of a child and not to have to become stilted, confined, ugly beings.  So I created clothes which worked and moved and allowed people to run, to jump, to leap, to retain this precious freedom.  Mary Quant  1966
Vidal Sassoon creating Mary Quant's signature bob
Yesterday friend and colleague, Sue Bradley contacted me about her current exhibition in the window of 28 Milsom Street Bath - the old Culpepers shop. Sue was one of our designers on our Devon & Bath knitters' tour in 2010, inspiring everyone with her unique take on fashion, textiles and knitting. Her work is on display until after the Jubilee so if you're in Bath anytime before then check it out.

Sue Bradley's work at Milsom Place

I've always been a fan of Sue's work and it got me thinking about how over the years I've been influenced by both Pop and OpArt.
More of Sue's work exhibited in Milsom Place
Pop Art is the visual arts movement of the 1950s and '60s, which aimed to close the gap between real life and art. Its images were taken from mass culture, artists duplicating beer bottles, soup cans, comic strips, road signs, and similar objects in paintings, collages, and sculptures. Others incorporated the objects themselves into their paintings or sculptures, which often used the materials of modern technology, such as plastic, polyurethane foam, and acrylic paint. The movement had a significant impact on commercial, graphic, and fashion design as many of its originators were commercial artists.

Peter Blake's Sgt Pepper Album cover
London was humming in the swinging sixties. I remember as a teenager busking with my guitar in the Portobello Road street market, where the atmosphere was electric, a cosmopolitan circus of exotic foods, weird curios and friendly people wearing beads, bells and amazing clothes, the whole belting out the message that anything goes. With its cheap imports and ubiquitous scent of patchouli, Carnaby Street also encouraged individual expression and became the epicentre of the new youth culture. 


Youth was empowered!  The Beatles and other Liverpool bands revolutionised popular music with the Mersey beat.  In the States Bob Dylan rallied a generation with his protest songs and the wild, inventive guitar playing of Jimi Hendrix made him a style icon of the time. Pop festivals mushroomed and Woodstockdefined a generation of flower powered, pot-smoking, peace-lovers, who read Aldous Huxley’s Doors of Perception and J.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings

Many young people shunned western religion, the Buddhist search for nirvana  had a wide appeal.  In London it was not unusual to see the saffron robes usually worn by Tibetan monks, even if the wearer hailed from no further east than Stepney.  One of my favourite cookery books was Edward Espe Brown's Tassajara Bread Book, a collection of deliciously scrumptious breads, biscuits and cakes, edited by one of the monks at the Californian Zen Buddhist monastery at Tassajara.  I still bake their heavenly banana bread whenever time and ripe bananas permit. 


Food played a big part in Pop Art. In England David Hockney produced TyphooTea, one of the earliest paintings to portray a brand-name commercial product. In the US Rauschenberg painted cast bronzes of Ballantine beer cans, Claes Oldenburg constructed garish, humorous plastic sculptures of hamburgers and other fast-food items, whilst Andy Warhol immortalised the Campbell’s soup-can.  

However, it was the powerfully graphic images of Op Artists like Victor Vasarely and Bridget Riley that intrigued me.  Op Art got its name from the optical tricks used to create the illusion of movement through spirals, circles, stripes and squares.  Some years ago I was delighted to come across many of Vasarely’s magical paintings and shimmering tapestries in a gallery which was once his home in Gordes, Provence. 


Bridget Riley's Blaze 1
In Britain Bridget Riley’s dynamic and dazzling canvasses focused attention on Op Art and influenced many aspects of decorative art and fashion.  Black and white zebra stripes popped up everywhere.  Mary Quant invented the mini-skirt which, when worn with white Courégges boots, created a striking space-age image every fashion-conscious young woman craved - from Twiggy even to Germaine Greer.  

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for the nostalgia.
    Carnaby St. Piccadilly Circus the British invasion
    Mini skirts, clogs
    I could go on.
    I still have my bottle of pink catawba wine from Woodstock, empty of course.

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    1. I'm so envious, even Joni Mitchell didn't get to Woodstock although I know thousands did!

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  2. I miss my embroidered and patch worked bell-bottoms that my mother threw away while I was gone for a weekend. I feel like we're right back where we were before the 60's with ultra-conservative movements and rigorous conformance. We could use some peace and love right about now.

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  3. Great looking urban art. I am so glad to get a peek at it!

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  4. Thank you so much for sharing this post with your readers.

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