Henrik Vibskov @ Galerie des Galeries, Galeries Lafayettes

Henrik Vibskov’s decision to become a fashion designer was not a conventional one. The Danish artist went to Central St Martin’s to impress a girl and decided he liked it. Now, an exhibition of his non fashion work is on display at Galleries Des Galleries, Galleries Lafayettes in Paris.

The show has a strong focus on material and from the display it is not a surprise that the artist is also a fashion designer constantly in contact with fabric. We are shown luxurious pure wool from Norway, straight out of an untouched barrel. It is raw nature and just begging to be touched, but alas we must restrain ourselves. In terms of material we also see foam stylised with wool and string, restrained against canvas. Later the wool is on display again, in huge shredded rounds which are reminiscent of works by Joseph Beuys. This industrial wool could also represent an alternative flag of Copenhagen.

The show is entitled ‘Neck Plus Ultra’, which has roots in the Roman saying ‘best of the best.’ The attachment of ‘k’ onto ‘neck’ is significant as the artist/designer has a clear interest in anatomy. The most memorable part of the experience are the hanging upside down black flamingos, with fabulously long necks. These birds alter our perception of wood puzzles on display and also create a dark sort of barrier between the other works. This neck motif is seen repeated again in experimentation of hand and industrial sewing hung like canvases in yellows and blues, colours typical of Scandanavia. It is interesting that the flamingoes are black. They are dark, much like a lot of our perception of Scandinavia.

Interest in anatomy is also shown in the alteration of film stills from Danish photographer Richard Winter. The models shown here are real people – Viskov’s neighbours. Nude images of old men, and non-idealised women could be a challenge to the shopping experience and a distortion on our perception of beauty on the runway and in magazines.

Also on display is a hypnotic wind tunnel. This is a reference to psychedelia. It is a trance like, hypnotic structure mixing metal, wood and textile. It looks like the inside of a sewing machine, although also reminds me of the cogs in a clock and could be a nod to surrealism.

Vibskov employs performance in his catwalks. He is also a percussionist. One thing is for sure, he is a deeply interesting artist, multi-faceted and the girl who prompted him to go to St Martin’s deserves a round of applause.

Neck Plus Ultra is on display at Galerie des Galeries, Galeries Lafayettes until 4 May

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier aka Gallery Girl is a writer and curator based in London. Her work has been featured in publications including Dazed, Hyperallergic and Vogue Arabia. She was curator of Perpetual Movement during AWAN Festival 2018 and in 2019 had a residency at the Lab at Darat Al Funun in Amman, Jordan. She has also worked with Armenia Art Fair for its inaugural edition and previously worked as an editor at I.B.Tauris Publishers. In 2019 she co-founded Arsheef, Yemen’s first contemporary art gallery. She has given workshops at Manara Culture in Amman, Jordan and Victoria and Albert Museum in London, UK. As of 2020 she is currently in law school, with the ambition of greater understanding the intersection between art and the law.

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