Saturday, 26 February 2011

Human Nature

Ever wondered where you came from?

Well, if you stop by the Winter Gardens this month you can find out in a very unique, and beautiful, way. Primitive Streak is a 'science-art-fashion-collaboration' by sisters Kate and Helen Storey and it's found a temporary home in Sheffield's plant infested hotspot until March 10th.

The collection of 27 dresses chart the first 1000 hours of human life, from fertilisation and the uncomfortably named 'Sperm Coat' to the formation of the heart in a spectacular scarlet number. Not all the dresses are on show this month but the few that have been chosen are certainly some of the most fascinating. Fashion designer Helen, who has worked for both Valentino and Lancetti and won several prestigious awards for her work over the years joined forces with her scientist sister, Professor Kate Storey in 1997. She had already been drawn to the fusion of science and art in previous projects but Primitive Streak was something different.

The pair infused Helen's creativity and skill with Kate's professional scientific research and came up with the textile based collaboration. Since 1997 the collection has toured the world and enthralled audiences.

I spoke to Helen this week when she was in Sheffield setting up the exhibition. She said that she hopes 'the fusion of art, fashion and science will bring in new audiences of every age, sex and culture'. She also described how the basic element of 'fashion' makes the potentially complex theory behind the work more accessible because, 'noones afraid of a frock'. When asked about the location she admitted that she had a bit of a soft spot for The Steel City, saying that she felt her way of thinking was very welcome here and that her long history with the city was founded in the warmth of the people to new ideas.

Walking around the dresses with Helen made the collection seem even more groundbreaking, I realised I'd never seen cell division made so explicit and so striking. Set upon an ivory shift dress, the process of anaphase is no longer a confusing, slimy scientific process but a corsage or brooch you wouldnt mind wearing on your tailored jacket. Similarly, fertilisation isn't an internal messy, sticky consequence of sex but a long delicately woven gown I'd quite happily don for a summer wedding. And suspended above the whole collection is a hat that, while embodying the formation of the heart, wouldn't look out of place at Ascot...or dare I say it, on the head of her Madge.


I'm completely taken by the exhibition and despite some of the dresses needing a bit of touching up in places, they are still as fascinating as the day they were made.

Find out more about Helen and Kate here:


Sunday, 13 February 2011

Exhibit C

Castle Street
 in Sheffield may not be an obvious choice for a photography exhibition; you’re more likely to see people making an exhibition of themselves than showing off their creative talent. But last week I watched as the greasy windows of the Co-op were washed then filled with over one hundred images of Sheffield, past and present. What is usually a pedestrian rat-run from Fargate to Castle Market was suddenly filled with people, lingering in front of the windows in groups. When I joined them, everyone was pointing proudly at the images of their city, identifying the incidents and locations that they recognised.

Some of the images are from the past month, The Moor and its graffitied words of inspiration appear next to images of the city’s high rise buildings. There are photos of trams, famous buildings and the city’s people dating back to the early 70’s. All the photos are taken by those who know and love the Steel City and they help chart the changes across generations. The exhibition is part of the Facebook lead project ‘Pictures of Sheffield’ and was conceived by Hedley Bishop, who says that is ‘not an art project’, but I tend to disagree. Not only do some of the photographs stand out amongst the more amateur endeavours but the concept of displaying these gems in the grimy and often overlooked Co-op creates a strange juxtaposition of beauty and grim practicality.

Two photographs in particular that resonate behind the glass are an unnamed shot of the Madina or Wolseley Road Mosque and that of a Royal Mail postbox (more interesting than it sounds.)

The first shows the centre of worship in all its glory, with its emerald dome rising up amongst the red brickwork of the terraced houses around it. The colours are subtle yet stunning; Eastern opulence versus Northern grit.

The second caught my eye as soon as I approached the window, framed solidly it is on first glance a sharp shot of a Royal Mail Postbox, but the embossed ‘GR’ that features on the front of all of these beauties has been defaced by the clever addition of three letters, A N and Y. The word ‘ANGRY’ glares out from the scarlet paintwork of the pillar box. It’s an image that reminds us of past traumas the city has faced, most notably being at the centre of Maggie T’s tirade on the miners in the 80’s, but also captures a more recent sentiment felt by the city- betrayal by their own. Nick Clegg’s relationship with the city is beyond repair.

It’s a funny little display but it captures my attention every time I walk home. So, next time you’re down near Primark take a few more steps and have a gander.!/group.php?gid=25750519904&v=info