In her latest series of paintings, award-winning designer, couturier and artist Susie Stone asks us, what does your wardrobe say about you? It's a question we might not have enjoyed answering during the pandemic, but one we might embrace now restrictions are over.
Titled Ensemble, Susie's new collection of paintings and limited-edition silkscreen prints are beautiful, bold portraits that champion female empowerment and self-expression through fashion. Together, they celebrate how we are, at long last, emerging from the confines of our homes to finally be reunited with friends, family and colleagues. But they beg the question, what to wear?
On show at Eames Fine Art Gallery in London next month, the striking artworks feature women who meet us posed, positioned and postured in a dazzling array of attire that invites us to consider that most portable form of expression – fashion. You know, that thing many of us forgot during endless days of pyjamas, joggers, hoodies and bed socks? Each portrait urges us to reconsider our wardrobe choices and to perhaps get back out there with a strong identity and enjoyment of expressing who we are through the clothes and accessories we pull together.
"At the beginning, it was sweat pants and pyjamas all the way," Susie tells Creative Boom of her own experience of the pandemic. "After a few weeks though, I realised how much my sense of identity is tied up in what I wear and how getting dressed in a way that made me feel good every day was crucial to my happiness. My core sense of style is not being over-dressed, but making every day feel fashionable – so even if you're wearing a tracksuit (which I often do) make it a great colour and quality fabric. Comfort and style are interlinked for me but the small choices make a big difference."
The imagined sitters of Susie's portraits gaze out at us from luscious fields of colour, form and pattern, sometimes seductively – often with icy indifference. Some stand over us, statuesque in evening wear, whilst others lean into the familiarity of a comforting sweater. Facemasks are out, shades are in, and the women in these works appear fiercely ready to step out and face the world anew, much like we all are.
"My paintings are as much about creating a mood as they are a literal representation of any one person," Susie says. "The women are usually an amalgam of various editorial images that inspire me and women I know whose style I admire."
You could say Susie's latest series is a celebration of post-lockdown life, too. "Being able to people-watch and meet up with friends again – those small moments of joy and inspiration feel like a daily luxury now which I try to convey in my work," she adds.
Born and raised in south London, Susie studied Fine Art at Leeds University, graduating with first-class honours for her work in painting and sculpture. A love of fashion led her into a career as an award-winning designer and couturier, opening her first atelier in 2010, making bespoke clothes and bridal gowns on Bermondsey Street. As a designer, she was committed to creating bespoke fashions for women as individual and unique as they are. But after seven years of making one-off luxury garments for her clients, she returned to her roots as a fine artist and moved into fashion illustration.
"After a decade working in fashion the day-to-day reality of running a business and meeting the demands of clients just zapped my creativity and joy for the industry I had always loved," she explains. "Turning to fashion illustration, then painting and prints felt like a rejuvenation of those passions with more freedom to be purely creative again. My latest artworks have felt like the culmination of a 15-year journey through fine art, design and fashion. It is a true reflection of who I am and I feel so lucky to be able to do it."
Influenced by contemporary portraiture, fashion photography and fashion illustration Susie's work is a celebration of women, colour and personal style, bursting with colour, pattern and line that welcome a new spring/summer season that promises greater freedoms and fewer restrictions than what we've been used to.
Ensemble by Susie Stone will run from 17 March until 17 April 2022 at Eames Fine Art Gallery in London. To find out more about the artist, visit www.susiestone.com.