© 2010 Saty + Pratha saty pratha Erdem

Angst & colour clash: Erdem talks art.

A talk with Erdem Moraliogu (a fellow Canadian/ex-pat!) at the Whitechapel Gallery reveals the following 10 art works that are have been special to his creative process.
The designer explains why each piece below (and usually, the body of work from the artist) is influential, and how they ultimately end up in the spirit and details of his collections.

1. White Canoe by Peter Doig. Having grown up on a street that led into a lake in the suburbs of Montreal, Erdem says he was instinctively drawn to this painting. The vague nature of the situation (“has something happened? Is something about to happen?”) and the use of opposing colours gives the painting a tension that is captivating. Erdem also mentions specifically liking the lack of perfection, and the combination of flat and raised brushstrokes.
2. Hysteric Fireworks by Ryan McGinley. Ok, Erdem is a huge fan of McGinley’s work. The feeling of abandon is highly appealing, as are the cosmic looking sprays of fireworks, “It is rebellious, vulnerable and romantic.” Of McGinley’s work in general, he says, “It is both of the moment, and poetic.”
3. Adriana pour Watanabe by Sarah Moon. Well, all photography by Sarah Moon, he says. In this piece in particular, Erdem is drawn to the unconventional colour combination, acid yellows with mauvey pinks. We, too, massively heart Moon’s work, and can see so much of her influence in other great photographers’ work – ahem, Paolo Roversi for example.
4. L’Apres Midi d’un Faune by Leon Bakst. Bakst was a member of the Ballet Russes, designing stunning costumes, backdrops and sets. This piece is the costume design for Nijinsky. It was Bakst that Erdem had in mind when designing his latest S/S 2011 collection. As a departure from his very optimistic previous collection, Erdem honed in on Bakst’s symbiotic use of muddy and rich colours when choosing the current palette. When asked about future aspirations, Erdem says that designing for a ballet would be a definite goal.
5. Matador by Tina Barney. This is from Barney’s series of photographs of European aristocracy posed in their own homes. Here, Erdem relates that he was drawn to clashing forces in the photo; a modern-day teenager from an old world family, the softness of the curtain fabric contrasted with the sharp and heavy embroidery of the traditional dress, the traditional dress itself paired with the shirt and tie. He says that this is something he does in his clothing, pairing a sharp menswear collar with a voluminous skirt shape. It also doesn’t hurt that the matador is handsome and completely holds the viewer’s gaze.

6. Celia by David Hockney. [Celia Birtwell appears in several of Hockney's paintings, notably Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy, completed when she was married to the troubled bon vivant Ossie Clark. There's some oldschool gossip talk for you!] Of this particular painting, Erdem mentions that he is attracted to her languorous posture, and that it looks unfinished. Does it mean anything that Birtwell is an renowned fabric designer, and Erdem designs his own digitally-printed fabrics?
7. Female Model in Bright Red Jacket and Pants by Egon Schiele.
Here, Erdem is attracted to the erratic line work, the strong block of red mixed with muddier colours, and the slightly grotesque nature of the painting. He also mentions that he likes how the model’s leg is cut off – when Erdem sketches out his collection, he is so preoccupied with another detail sometimes that he gets to the bottom of the page and realizes he hasn’t left any room for feet!

8. Madame X by John Singer Sargent. In this painting, the attraction is to the black gown set against a dark background, yet contrasted to the model’s porcelain skin. Another liking-point is that the model’s gaze is turned away from the viewer, creating a sense of intrigue. You’ll have to forgive him for obvious choice, it is sort of impossible not to like Sargent’s work. Especially when you live in England.

9. Ohne Titel by Nina Pohl. Ok, this series of work is really so now. Pohl photographs untitled paintings, and then the photos become her own art. In this photo, she has impressed herself on the art via the presence of the flash. Here, the ideas that appeal to Erdem are the appropriation of other works to create something new, and showing something of yourself in that new creation. To me, this photo is a brutally honest way of showing that all creative people steal ideas from other places. I mean, Jim Jarmusch told us to! But where most of us mash up ideas and churn out something that only sort of resembles the original, Pohl is super straightforward about it.

10. Die Jungfrau / The Virgins by Gustav Klimt. Erdem admits Klimt is an obvious choice, and that most designers are influenced by the artist when they are studying. Of this particular painting, Erdem is drawn to the spirit of the painting; sensuality, overt femininity, the freedom of the outstretched arms of virgin number … 1? And, of course, all the clashy swirling colours!
After a brief delving into his mixed Anglo-Turkish heritage, watching couture shows on French-language telly as a child, and the impact of his mother’s own style on his designing, he also cites young suburban angst as a thematic draw. Movies like Virgin Suicides and Picnic at Hanging Rock, for example. Of his art choices, he says the following:
“The things you like in life are what you can relate to. And, inevitably, these are things that you’ve experienced.”

Header drawing/photo collage by moi, Pratha Samyrajah.

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