Monday, 7 January 2013

A Beautiful Bumblebee Playing A Cello

Several weeks before an exhibition opens in London I excitedly count down the days, but when the counter hits zero, I don't go. It usually takes me at least two months to finally attend something I've been obsessing over. The Tim Walker exhibition at Somerset House was no exception. Today I finally bit the bullet and ambled through the majestic courtyard, past a couple of showboating ice skaters and battled through a legion of Mulberry Bayswaters to find myself in Wonderland. I have been to Somerset House many times before, but for some reason I have never actually been inside. What struck me as odd but pleasing was the quaint feel of the exhibition space. It felt as if I'd walked into an art dealers house. An art dealer that lives in the finest real estate London has to offer, but still, the atmosphere is homely. 

Growing up on British Vogue I was aware of Walker's signature fantasy photography, but I didn't know just how many portraits he had taken. Anna Piaggi, Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen and Tilda Swinton have all sat in front of Walker's lens. Although his shoots are famed for their complexity his simpler work is equally as beautiful. Many of the portraits I saw I recognized but had not attributed them to Tim Walker. His aesthetic is so defined and recognisable that anything that deviates away from it is difficult to merge with his other work. Some photographs, I had never come across before. One of which was the stunning picture above of model Xiao Wen Ju sporting yellow Marilyn hair.

The exhibition not only features Walker's photography but also includes props that were made for his shoots. One of the most incredible things about Tim Walker's photography is that he doesn't use Photoshop. When you see a larger than life doll chasing Lindsey Wixson through the countryside in Italian Vogue, that doll actually exists, and is situated at the exit of the exhibition, and is absolutely terrifying. Other fantastical props included in the exhibition are a skeleton who's spine curves along the ceiling because of it's enormity, a swan boat, a spitfire, some jelly mold hats and a beautiful bumblebee playing a cello. The models chosen for Walker's shoots are usually romantic yet surreal beings. Large eyes, small lips and button noses with extended limbs makes most of the models look like dolls, and perfectly suit their fantastic surroundings. Weirdly one of my favourite models and a name I closely associate to Walker's work, Lily Cole, didn't appear in the exhibition, unless I accidentally skipped a room.
The exhibition is well worth a visit and if you live in London you have no excuse in missing this smorgasbord of visual delights. The exhibition is free and will be at Somerset House until the 27th of January. 

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