An Italian take on a French artist from an exhibition shown in London sounds intriguing. And it was. For with yet more inspiration on the runway from the recent Henri Matisse cut-outs exhibition at Tate Modern, Tommaso Aquilano and Roberto Rimondo put their historical spin on modernism.
The duo’s particular inspiration was Matisse’s work in the chapel at Vence in the south of France. The show started — and was at its best — with layers of chiffon and organza that gave a filmy look to the clothes.
There were skirts with hazy traces of the legs beneath, while dresses in light fabrics were sometimes teamed with thicker canvas. The colours were all plaster-pale and airy, some with cut out patterns in fresh colours like pink and green.
Most obvious were the printed or appliqué dragonflies, landing on the skirt of a light dress or swarming across the body.
The opening third of the show was powerful and light-handed. But as the designers moved their inspiration from Matisse’s black and white works on the chapel’s plaster walls to the artist’s vivid stained-glass window, the effect was heavy — in two senses. First there were the colours: the rich reds and blues, which seemed like winter shades. Then there was the duo’s dedication to lightness and transparency, showing the body.
When these two ideas came together with visible red and blue underwear, the effect was almost vulgar — although it is difficult to associate these poetic designers with such a word. But this development of Matisse’s vision did not match up to the light beauty in the early part of the show.