Q+A with watercolour illustrator Michael Frith, in conjunction with HORSE, a Frith/Mort Collaboration

HORSE, a thoughtful and dynamic exploration of the connection between two linked but independent industries – art and fashion – opened today at Asia House, Cavendish Street.  Featuring selected items from Jenny M.’s first menswear capsule collection, strikingly displayed against the large-scale watercolour paintings of Michael Frith (the source of inspiration for the new collection) the show is as culturally as it is aesthetically resonant.  Shortly after the show opened, I caught up with watercolour illustrator Michael Frith, best known for his depiction of court cases and public figures which have appeared in a range of popular national and international publications.

How did Frith & Mort London come about?

Jenny and I are friends. I gave Jenny a sketch of a horse for her Birthday. A discussion about an art/fashion collaboration ensued…

Michael Frith, Preparatory sketches for the HORSE series

Frith & Mort London explores the connection between two linked but independent worlds: art and fashion.  How important do you think the link between these two worlds is – specifically, what value does it bring to the cultural sphere?

There is a significant link. Two vital and visual mediums. Images moving upon fabrics. Wearing art. The everyday essentials with cultural and creative overlaps. All very exciting.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your portfolio.

I have a background in illustrating and designing for newspapers. I have a long association with The Sunday Times – I produced weekly watercolour portraits for the ‘Profile’ page and I was on the Judging Panel for the Singer & Friedlander Watercolour Competition/The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition for over five years.

My illustration work afforded me the opportunity to pursue my own paintings: marine paintings, larger-than-life portraits (Robert Maxwell at the National Portrait Gallery) arboreal pictures and equestrian watercolours ensued.

 

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For many people, illustration is about explanation, even decoration.  How do you see illustration?

My own work is more about reportage and observation. The hand-crafted illustrations/portraiture etc. provide a change of perspective and pace within a publication, a situation currently not in vogue what with the immediacy of the iPhone culture and the 5 minute attention span.

Your watercolour work is characterised by immediacy and freshness, an atmosphere created through the use of subtle brush splatters and bleeds.  Tell us a little bit more about the techniques that you use to generate atmosphere.

I think that the work has to answer for this one.

 

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The watercolours which you will be exhibiting as part of Frith & Mort London are large-scale pieces, a format that is unusual for the medium.  Why did you choose to challenge the boundaries of watercolour in this way, and how did you find the process?

I developed the technique of using watercolour at speed whilst working for a daily newspaper. Then, in my personal work I wanted to get away from the established convention of watercolour being a sketching medium usually thought of as an afternoon pursuit for Victorian ladies! Subsequently, the power of large watercolour work on paper became more and more enthralling.

Does fashion imitate art far more than art imitates fashion?  Why?

I wouldn’t say ‘imitate’, rather ‘influence’. There is a symbiosis between the two – they influence each other. Art has always reflected society’s nuances and fashion responds, as do all of the arts.  Vice versa is true also and so the circular process continues indefinitely…

Frith/Mort London, Install Shot

HORSE, a Frith/Mort Collaboration, is on show at Asia House from 5 – 9 December.  The venue is open daily from 10am – 6pm and admission is free.  For further details, please visit www.jennymlondon.com

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