Last night the BBC took a short break from wall-to-wall Olympic coverage and showed the first in a series of three programmes about colour. The series is called A History of Art in Three Colours. It’s presented by James Fox. The programme itself was a bit unconvincing. A claim was made that Klimt was attempting to reinstate gold as a precious thing after its debasement in the aftermath of electroplating. This might be true, although I would have liked a bit of proof rather than assertion. That said, it was a lovely thing to look at for an hour, and I look forward to blue and white which are to come. The programme had a warm golden glow and glittery feel to it. So we got Tutankhamun’s death mask:
And Cellini’s salt cellar:
And the Scandinavian Sun Chariot of Trundholm:
And, of course, quite a bit of Klimt, particularly The Kiss:
All the gold was sumptuous and lovely, and very, very glamorous. Glamour is a theme that I have been thinking about a lot in my work on women and brands. Anita Roddick had personal glamour and Laura Ashley promised a kind of aspirational, glamorous chateau-style lifestyle in the nineties. Gold is clearly glamorous and nicely ambivalent. It’s beautiful and dangerous, larded with temptation. Miraculous. I love the way that it doesn’t corrode or tarnish so that when the Anglo-Saxon treasures come out of the ground they are always pristine. The boy pharaoh lives forever, as does Klimt’s wonderful Adele Bloch-Bauer
‘Mehr Blech als Bloch’ [more brass - money - than Bloch] was the joke when it was exhibited. I got the idea of the programme, the links between what we hold most precious and gold, but the presenter himself was an interesting case with regard to glamour. He wore Tarantino Reservoir Dogs outfits throughout:
It didn’t matter what the terrain or temperature, our boy was in his black and white outfit, usually with Ray Bans:
I understand about the demands of continuity, and I was glad that he didn’t whip out the gratuitous iPad without which no documentary now seems to be complete, but somehow it the suit, shirt and tie just didn’t look hip or cool or glamorous. It looked contrived. It looked like he was trying. It didn’t look effortless. And it looked derivative. The sitting in the sun in a white shirt, black tie and black suit and Ray Bans looked like a still from any number of films, including one of my very favourites, Grosse Point Blank:
With John Cusack.
Dr Fox looked like he’d watched a lot of Taratino and Robert Rodriguez at an impressionable age. Glamour, I think, has to look like your style. Dr Fox looked styled. Elizabeth Taylor or Talitha Getty would have wafted through those locations in kaftans looking utterly convincing:
And look at this for glamour:
This is a woman who even wore her rubies and diamonds in the swimming pool:
This might seem to be a digression, but although Taylor clearly thought about the impression she was making, she looked utterly like herself even in her pool.
So what about glamour in my own work? Why all that gold and beading and jewels and sparkle?
The work demands to be looked at – these are showgirl textiles. The Body Shop Quilt requires its own space in any exhibition (and gets it) and preferably a halogen spot to bring out the bling. So glamour demands attention. Glamour is about lustre, about light. It is about surface. And in my case glamour is about excess – where it can easily tip over into camp, gaudiness, chaviness and trashiness:
This brings me back to one of my favourite topics: taste. Glamour doesn’t normally suggest good taste, but really glamorous people, Taylor and my mother’s instant selection, Joan Crawford, know when to stop. They know when to take one piece off. They are self-aware. This is the sort of glamour which makes us think if we tried very, very, very hard we could actually achieve:
And we can’t finish about gold and glamour without this picture:
These thoughts are still underdeveloped, but it’s good to have a tv programme that makes you think for once.