‘The Absent Model’ – Reflections of a Stylist’s Work is an intriguingly clever yet beautifully simple site specific show, curated by Tory Turk, who was recently described by Tatler magazine as ‘one of the curators of the moment’.
On one level Tory explores the role of the fashion stylist and the creative process of fashion styling, as she says, ‘to make an audience aware of the hidden role of the stylist with the belief that this will enrich their appreciation of fashion’. Dig a bit deeper and we discover that there is so much more going on here.
When looking at the powerful and even somewhat unsettling images created for this show, we cannot help but be taken back by the physical absence of the model. The actual clothes worn by the model in the shoot are casually strewn on the floor, as if casted off in a hurry, when taken in relation to the image on the wall of the shoot that has already taken place with the model, there at another point in time, it creates a space and time dynamic and thus by virtue a narrative, which demands more questions. This is a sure sign of an engaging and thoughtful piece of artwork.
The shoot itself was documented by a video piece, which was effectively displayed and played out of synch on a row of screens. So the show becomes consciously self-referential with an interplaying dialogue between the corporal and the constructed, the removed and the remaining. Throughout the space, Tory places with notions of physical presence and absence, even in places, which are traditionally considered personal and private, such as the toilet.
The fashion installations created are quietly haunting, like a chair recently vacated. Here we have the specter of the self and the negative space that the body occupied. The effect is troubling, raising issues surrounding identity and roles. The garments themselves become redundant without a model to give them form and purpose. The opposite is true, whereby the model is removed as without the clothes she becomes pointless and immaterial.
The process is critical here, from the concept, to the styling, the shoot and finally to the installation. When I caught up with Tory during the installation she was laying out the garments in a quick expressive action, “I’m interested in creating a mood through intervention and the idea of instant art”, she told me. ‘Fashion, like film is not dependant on a single auteur, the photographer will create a look and a feel, but it is the stylist who is often overlooked in the creative process.’
With ‘The Absent Model”, Tory Turk has given us a glimpse into the working practice of a stylist, but more than that, she has given it a potent and even perturbing context.
- Ben Austin