“We like the idea of making something ridiculous, clowning with it, by depicting banal things… a banana is as funny as a sausage, they are immediately recognisable things… Bottecelli’s Venus is a stunning image, but we have always hated Venus herself in this image, so we have obscured her with a banana” Antoni + Alison. Duo Alison Roberts and Antoni Burakowski are also perhaps better known as the London-based fashion designers Antoni + Alison whose work is worn and admired internationally. They met 20 years ago at Saint Martin’s School of Art and Design and have worked together ever since.
Their work has a British sense of humour with an appealing mischievous sensibility that doesn’t relate to fashion, but is based on their own exploration of ideas and experiences. “We’ve never played the game. We sit outside of fashion...fashion has a tendency to take itself too seriously, and laughter is the best way of breaking out of that pattern. It doesn’t mean that we aren’t serious about what we do - we are incredibly serious - but for us, laughter is a means to communication.”
However successful their clothes and accessory designs may be, Roberts and Burakowski are primarily fine artists who have exhibited their photography internationally within the museum and gallery sector and have subsequently become famous for their photographic prints of recurring themes and symbols, such as magical images of sweet faced creatures, cakes, cigarettes, potatoes and raw meat (food plays a key role) which decorate their images.
Both self taught photographers, they use only natural sunlight and always photograph their tableaux or collages plein air developing the medium as a highly personal art form.
One key characteristic involves the placing of found objects onto 2D backgrounds to create surreal collages in a series of ongoing work called Pattern with Object; such as placing a ring doughnut on a conservative tweed fabric. This fusion of opposites is the essence of their work. As Burakowski explains “our work isn’t about trends. We are about putting together two things that should never meet. They shouldn’t work or fit, but once you place them there, somehow they do.” Like their Corrected Masterpiece series depicting a famous and familiar Monet image overlaid with a lush organic lettuce, a Fragonard with the addition of confectionary and simply a sandwich on a Titan. Culminating in a modern twist on familiar classics of art history.
“We visited Rochester castle and realised how difficult it was to relate to history, we came to the conclusion that in fact, what we do know historically is incorrect, how could it possibly be fully correct? We are not saying history didn’t happen, of course we’re not, but we don’t believe everything that we’re told about it. We just simply wanted to sum things up, so we pared history down to a real ignorance level, by depicting iconic figures, with no accurate knowledge.”
“For example, the only thing we know about Marie-Antoinette is that she was a French ‘Fancy’ (the name of a very English cake), who famously said ‘let them eat cake’, so we decided to depict her in that way...she is two French tarts, which are ornate and frilly...we are basically just playing with these ideas of portraiture.”
Both perfectionists who are extremely critical of their own work, they believe that there is a need to create these images that buzz around in their heads. “We are compelled to do what we do, we are not trying to be something…we have to work until we get the images absolutely right, they may go through several stages for just one image and ultimately as long as we are happy with it, it’s right.”
Mr & Mrs Antoni & Alison are very serious about what they do “… and work very hard indeed!”
Their work is included in, amongst others: both in the collection of Prints and Drawings, and exists as a ‘Living Archive’ at The Victoria & Albert Museum, London and in the permanent collection of The Huis Marseille, Institute for Photography, Amsterdam (where their work was included in the ‘Made in Britain: Contemporary British Photography’ exhibition in 2005) and the Citibank Collection, London. They have also exhibited as far a field as Museum Fur Kundsthandwerk Stockholm, Sweden and The Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
This exhibition will be their second solo show at The hug Gallery, the first having launch the gallery back in 2004.
All work is available for purchase.
Curated by Addie Vassie.