October 01, 2013

Breathless with Miles Aldridge

Pictured with Short Breaths #5 at the Brancolini Grimaldi Miles Aldridge Short Breaths exhibition, photo (right) courtesy of Brancolini Grimaldi
             London Fashion Week’s festivities don’t just cease with the termination of the week. I was given the very special privilege to attend a post-fashion week drinks party hosted by Rosie Fortescue of reality television series, Made in Chelsea. The event was held at art gallery Brancolini Grimaldi, located on Albemarle Street in central London. Originally opened in 2000 in Florence, Italy by Isabella Brancolini, the gallery prided itself on displaying contemporary work in the form of photography, painting, installation, and video. Camilla Grimaldi joined forces with Brancolini in 2005, hence the adoption of the gallery’s name as it stands today. A second gallery went on to open in Rome and the gallery began to hone in on photography and video, finding its niche. April 2011 saw the launch of Brancolini Grimaldi in London, the perfect setting for flaunting the work of photographers who revel in twisting the confines of their genre. 

The event invitation featuring Aldridge’s Semi-Detached #2 

             Miles Aldridge’s Short Breaths exhibition was the backdrop for the party, where guests mused over his photographs, wine in hand. The exhibition came to a close this past Saturday after its run from the 12th of July. Somerset House ran a retrospective of Aldridge’s work called I Only Want You to Love Me around the same time frame, finishing last Sunday. Born and based in London, Aldridge studied illustration at Central St. Martins and became a music video director before tapping into his potential as a fashion photographer in 1993. A various number of Aldridge’s portraits are included in the permanent collections at The National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria & Albert Museum here in London and the International Center of Photography in New York. Aldridge has worked with the likes of British Vogue, Paris Vogue, American Vogue, Vogue Italia, The Face, Numéro, The New York Times, The New Yorker, and Paradis. Alongside this impressive selection, he has also collaborated with brands such as Yves Saint Laurent, Armani, Longchamp, L’Oréal, Hugo Boss, and Paul Smith on advertising campaigns.

Miles Aldridge, photo courtesy of Vogue Italia 

             It was such an honor to meet Aldridge and see him mingling with the guests at the party, those of which included Made in Chelsea stars Jamie Laing, Oliver Proudlock, Spencer Matthews, and Hugo Taylor who came along to support fellow cast member, Fortescue. Dancer/model Anthony Kaye (better known as B.B.), who appeared on our radar in E4’s model reality series Dirty Sexy Things, was also present. Aldridge had an intense gaze, a mischievous smile, and a pair of seriously cool tortoise shell glasses. We chatted for a while and I was pleased to personally express my delight over the photographs to the man behind the camera. He acted as onlooker, almost certainly analyzing others’ reception of his work. Aldridge needn’t vocalize his presence, because the guests were bound to already admire him with reverence from afar. After they sufficiently viewed the exhibition and evidenced his mastery of photography, it was only a matter of time before they approached him.   

Chromo Thriller #3, photo courtesy of Brancolini Grimaldi
             Indeed, it is hard not to say something about Aldridge’s photographs, which are alluringly sexual and thought provoking. All of the models are painfully glamorous, but behind their eyes lays dissatisfaction with the domestic roles they have either gained or been forced into. Their dead, blank stares eyeballed the attendees of the evening, pleading with us to take them more seriously before we cast them off as just pretty faces. Layers of pristinely applied makeup crack thanks to Aldridge, who has even stated himself that he doesn’t “feel like making happy pictures about beautiful models being content.” Aldridge adds depth and substance to his subjects who toy with menial tasks such as cooking. It’s as if the models must find a way to entertain themselves, even if that entails playing with fire, quite literally in some cases.

Home Works #3, photo courtesy of Brancolini Grimaldi  
             There is no denying the sensuality of Aldridge’s material. It does not attempt to conceal itself or dress itself up as something else. This is pure and true eroticism at its finest. It would be ignorant to view the phallic symbols as anything but what they are. Despite this titillating triumph, male figures featured very minimally in the Short Breaths exhibition. When they did make an appearance, they were either reduced to the shadows or added to the overall consternation that is characteristic of Aldridge’s work. The shining stars were certainly the women, and with faces and bodies that enticing, there isn’t much room left for anyone else anyway. Now, I am just generalizing to one particular exhibition, because Aldridge has certainly done his fair share of shoots with male models as well.

BBQ, photo courtesy of Brancolini Grimaldi 
             The airbrushed, porcelain quality that emanates from the subjects of the photographs is further juxtaposed by their sour facial expressions and hungry eyes. Aldridge does not shy away from color, which almost seems ironic in most of the models’ cases. While the women might be struggling with some inner turmoil, they are forever surrounded by candy-coated settings, prodding them to perk up. This is perhaps what is so enchanting about the photographs. They turn sinister upon second glance. Where before they held promise and hope and joviality, these visions soon diminish to reveal a crease in a downturned smile or a strained suppression of anxiety. 

3-D, photo courtesy of Brancolini Grimaldi  
             This is all of course based off of my own subjective experience. With art, there is no right or wrong answer and everyone will take something different altogether away from Aldridge’s work, just like with any other artist. I often wonder if artists feel amused by the various bouts of interpretations that their work endures. I suppose it comes with the territory and all anyone can do is take a stab in the dark and hope to do the creator justice, just as I am now.

The Pure Wonder #1, photo courtesy of Brancolini Grimaldi
             Fortescue socialized with guests like a seasoned host during the evening and her choice of venue was nothing short of cultured, which was to be expected. 180 signed and numbered copies of Miles Aldridge’s Carousel debuted at the Short Breaths exhibition. The limited edition portfolio consists of 32 lithographic and silkscreen prints produced on fairground-worthy cotton candy pinks and bumper car brights that will have you spinning right round. However, Aldridge’s Carousel is definitely one you won’t want to get off and probably wouldn’t mind getting stuck on.

A Drop of Red #2, photo courtesy of Brancolini Grimaldi   
             For information regarding Brancolini Grimaldi and upcoming exhibitions at the art gallery, see here. Check out Aldridge’s range of stunning photography for yourself here

Bold Gold #2, photo courtesy of Brancolini Grimaldi

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