– Estonian Museum of Applied Arts and Design (Lai 17, Tallinn, Estonia) 23 May – 27 September 2015
Tbilisi Moma (Tbilisi, Georgia) 9 October – 13 October 2015
Pärnu Museum (Aida 3, Pärnu, Estonia) 5 February – 10 April 2016
ERÖMÜVHAZ Culture Centre (Budapest, Hungary) 23 September – 20 October 2016
Boras Textile Museum (Boras, Sweden) 28 January – 7 May 2017

About the exhibition

Curator of the exhibiton: Toomas Volkmann
Graphic Designer: Tuuli Aule
Organizer: Helen Saluveer
Assistant: Birgita Silberg

“New Nordic Fashion Illustration vol 2“ is a follow-on to two exhibitions held in Tallinn and Helsinki a few years ago, featuring artists from Estonia, Finland and Sweden. The new display includes artists from Norway and Denmark, offering a comprehensive picture of the creative approach of the brightest Nordic illustrators and a selection of their works of more commercial nature.

The last decade has brought fashion illustration back to the attention of art historians and galleries. The last couple of years have witnessed its strong presence in online publications and exhibitions. While the focus of the mainstream media has changed, the numerous new publications and wide range of subject show continuing interest in that genre.

Fashion illustration has been around for some 500 years, though not always in the limelight like it is today. Flourishing in between the two world wars, its firm position started to evade in the fifties with the powerful emergence of photography and mercantilist perception of the world. Never leaving the arena for good, fashion illustration made a new breakthrough during the optimistic pathos of the sixties, paving the way for new aesthetic approaches. Unfortunately enough, this did not come about without a certain degree of vandalism, with many masterpieces from previous epochs ending up in the trash bin.

The nature of fashion illustrations is contradictory and multifaceted, as it will always be associated with advertising, sales and art, while remaining somewhere between these realms, to the despair of academics … Probably that is also why compared to other, mainstream art genres, which are easier to define, fashion illustration is forced into the periphery of the art world, along with poster art and even product design.

The magic of fashion illustration lies in its paradoxicality, mirroring the modern consumer society on one hand, and remaining true to the fundamental values of the general European drawing tradition on the other hand.

Over time fashion illustration has managed to synthesize into its graphic toolkit the presence of many great European masters from the Renaissance to pop art. Dürer, Ingres, Degas, Japanese impulsiveness and minimalism, the décor of art nouveau and art deco, and the psychedelic 60-70s are only a few examples within the rich variety of illustration techniques and traditions. Thus there is also a degree of conservatism along with a feel of retro present in fashion illustration, revealing a great deal of idealism through appreciation for history, fashion design as well as particular design objects that have inspired the illustrator.

In modern times, where commercial art is largely based on computer program skills, fashion illustration has remained true to pristine manual arts and crafts, even when including a synthesis of techniques or post-processing with the computer. The power of hand, pencil and brush, even when mixed with the multitude of options provided by design software programmes, creates the feeling of uniqueness. In that sense it is not an overstatement to say that it belongs on the same pedestal as haute couture.

While fashion photography with its endless technical options allows to describe the tiniest details of the materials and forms of fashion design, fashion illustration easily captures something bigger and beyond us by making a generalisation of time, expectations and poetry, and, as such, being perhaps an even more precise voice of our time.

And why do we speak of Nordic fashion illustration? Probably because Nordic artists have established a myth of the creator, who sees beauty from afar, from the edge of the world, generalising the temporal and the timeless with a mere line stroke.

Toomas Volkmann

Curator of the exhibition