Matt Ellwood

Saintes et Dames

21st Sep –
15th Oct 2022

OPENING EVENT: Wednesday 21 September, 5.30-7.30pm

"Saintes et Dames" takes as its starting point, the Notre Dame fire of 2019 and juxtaposes media imagery of this event with cropped runway images of the Saint Laurent 2019 Spring collection from a few months earlier.

In a consistent way to Ellwood’s last exhibition at the gallery, "A.P.R (Arnault/Pinault/Renault)", the underlying context is held within the decades-long competition between two French billionaires to acquire as much of the high fashion and luxury goods market as possible, and their recent penchant for using significant Paris landmarks to launch their seasonal collections.

In this particular case it is the Eiffel tower, with Saint Laurent constructing underneath the tower, a temporary shallow infinity pool as the runway for all the models to walk down. But also important is the competing philanthropy, with Arnault (LVMH) bequeathing €200m to the rebuild of Notre Dame, doubling Pinault’s (Kering) announcement of €100m Euro.

In Ellwood’s hands, all of this is put into the service of drawing, with the minor variances in repetitive imagery being translated by the singular methodology of charcoal on paper. It becomes more about the further translation (and desaturation) of photographic documentation - fire, smoke, architecture, lens flare, and ripples in the water - each requiring a noticeably different technical calibration and register.

The title, "Saintes et Dames" is key to understanding Ellwood’s ongoing interest in giving the audience something to disagree with, and it becomes a wall-based text work itself that stylistically mimics the fashion label. It hermetically links the two terms in an awkward circle of meaning and provocation. Is the plural “Dames” simply referring to the multiplicity of imagery that mass media brings to such a significant event, and the Saints being half the name of what the models are wearing (dropping Laurent like Slimane dropped Yves in 2012), or is the plural Saintes in reference to the religious statues burning in Notre Dame (Our Lady) and the dames splashing down the runway pour notre plaisir?

This is Matt Ellwood's sixth solo show with Melanie Roger Gallery.