Claire Barrow is best known for pairing her signature illustrations with her fashion designs – over leather, knit and silk, she paints and stitches willowy figures, faces and creatures. Earlier this year, the London designer collaborated with Ditto Press to create a fold out zine to accompany her AW15 show “High Flyers”. The pairing saw Barrow’s brushstrokes jump from garment onto printed page, giving her work new life. Now, her illustrations have their own platform, mounted on canvas at Hackney’s M.Goldstein gallery.
A trilogy, the works evoke characters from Barrow’s imagination yet remain anchored in her experience as a fashion designer, as evidenced in tongue-in-cheek titles like “Same Shoes”, “Committing Social Suicide” and “We Take Style Very Seriously”. She writes in the press release: “Figures often feature in my work. The ones in the trilogy are set in a space in the mind where they feel pleased to self deprecate and harm themselves, in order to feel something. The Spanish dancer, grim reaper and Moroccan Berber woman are a random selection of figures who have a higher moral impact. Untouchable, watching over the others.”
Usually confined to the fabric of her designs, Barrow says, “Until now, making clothes and presenting the collection has been my way of creating art. I had never made a piece you couldn't wear. Nathaniel from M.Goldstein suggested I consider painting on canvas, and invited me to exhibit these first works in his gallery. This gave me the push to focus on my work purely as fine art.” She adds that bringing her illustrations onto a purely art-based platform gives them context outside of the fashion schedule. “Art exists beyond fashion's seasons. I did have to stop and start a lot, making sure certain elements were right,” she reveals. “But I'm not putting on airs because painting on canvas is more of a traditional medium. My painting style is naive as usual.”
Barrow’s work is on show, and available to buy, Friday-Sunday (or by appointment) at M.Goldstein, 67 Hackney Road, E2 8ET London