More than 95 million images are posted every day on Instagram alone. Posted and, in effect, given away for free, with the Facebook-owned social network stating in its terms that users grant “non-exclusive, fully-paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use their content”.
Just a few clicks and we allow our images, our identity, to be shared, repurposed, hijacked - and most of us think nothing of it. But York-based fashion designer Matty Bovan has turned his thoughts and creative energy to this issue, and developed a thought-provoking art installation that invites visitors to dress up and be photographed for images that will not be making their way online.
Matty Bovan: Boomerang launches next Friday in the Bothy Gallery at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. He launched the project via 20 billboards across Manchester and Sheffield, featuring images of himself getting into character for his 10 past fashion collections. Billboards are a traditional marketing medium, tangible, constructed of real stuff, in contrast to digital online media adverts (although the posters do have a QR code that can be scanned to go directly to the Boomerang YSP page online).
“Seeing any interesting or creative billboards is even more important in the age of online,” he said. “I wanted these billboards to be slightly ambiguous visually, with the idea of dressing up and transforming yourself into a character.
“I want these to make people question their own identity, and their own reasons for selecting clothes and engaging with fashion and textiles. To be able to showcase these in Yorkshire is particularly important to me as it's my home, and where I have made all my work.”
At Yorkshire Sculpture Park, visitors will be invited to choose from a range of sculptural fashion designs created by Bovan, and will then be photographed wearing them. They will not be allowed to take their own photo - the project will be documented with a collection of images that will only be used in a printed publication and never shared online. Participants will be encouraged to engage with these wearable artworks for a minimum of 10 minutes, far longer than the average concentration span of three seconds for an artwork or image. In doing so, Bovan, and visitors, will question the construction of identity, authorship and the idea of a so-called “personal brand” in the age of social media, while creating a new self-image captured in a unique way, blurring sculpture, fashion and photography.
The project is yet another bold and thought-provoking piece of work from the feted designer, who has been compared to Vivienne Westwood and John Galliano. Bovan went to Millthorpe School in York and at 16 to York College, followed by a foundation at Leeds Beckett University (where he now teaches), then a BA and an MA at Central Saint Martins. He moved back to his home city after graduating in 2015. His graduate collection, showcase his signature cacophony of sculptural knits and other textures with quirky handmade adornments, earned him the L’Oréal Professionnel Creative Award, followed by the LVMH Graduate Prize, going on to work with Marc Jacobs and Miu Miu.
His parents, Plum and Nick Bovan, have been his constant support and his late grandmother, Joan, introduced him to knitting. As well as Yorkshire Sculpture Park (where he has had a research residency), he cites The Hepworth, and Leeds Art Gallery as favourite sources of inspiration. In June this year, he won a double Woolmark International award, praised by judges for his technically advanced jacquard weave designs, strong colour combinations and sustainable approach, working with local suppliers and manufacturers, including using roll end cloth from AW Hainsworth.
Last month, Bovan premiered his Spring/Summer 2022 collection with a film for the London Fashion Week digital schedule. Called Hypercraft, it was directed by Ruth Hogben with creative input from Katie Grand and features models Adhel Bol, Edwina Preston, Erin O’Connor, Rosemary Ferguson and Yili Liu in scenes inspired by 1970s’ domesticity, featuring TV static, string art, knitted chevrons, family photos - and the carpets of The Shining.
Bovan said: “I customised a 1970s dolls house, covering the walls in tape, drawings and family photos, creating carpets and sourcing vintage furniture to create my own interior emotionally charged world, a hazy house of Matty Bovan.
“I also worked with a local hand knitter to help create additional chevrons which have then been hand sewn onto nude tulle bases.” He found his vintage buttons in York.
“I was lucky enough to be taught crochet by my grandmother, Joan, when I was a teenager, and I knew I wanted to bring in ‘granny crochet,’ but subverted to a place where people would not expect to see it. In this case, a large umbrella shape of metal boning, tulle and hand crochet.”
You can see the film on the London Fashion Week website and, as ever, it is a fascinating, highly collaborative piece of work from this exciting young British fashion designer who continues to create his exciting, challenging and brilliant work from his native Yorkshire.
*Matty Bovan: Boomerang is at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park from October 22 to 26.
*The SS22 collection film Hypercraft at https://londonfashionweek.co.uk/designers/matty-bovan
*Matty Bovan's SS22 collection was launched digitally at London Fashion Week and called ‘HYPERCRAFT’, referencing domesticity, miniature rooms, family photographs, 70s tv static, knitted chevrons, dinnerware plate patterns, 70s string art and granny crochet. Director and photographer: Ruth Hogben - @ruthhogben - Styling: Matty Bovan - @babbym - Creative Consultant: Katie Grand - @kegrand - executive producer Mandi Lennard - @mandilennard - produced by Family Film @family.ltd - Casting Anita Bitton @bitton @establishmentny - Models Adhel Bol, Edwina Preston, Erin O’Connor, Rosemary Ferguson, Yili Liu @adhel_bol @edwinapreston @erinoconnor @rosemaryferguson_ @ichiyi000 - Felipe Narvaez @f3l1pe