Friday, January 21, 2011

Spotlight : The Great Circus of Ruth Hogben

 You've already read about Ruth Hogben on this blog (see my article "A Future without Catwalks"). A full article on this artist sounds pretty obvious after my yesterday's philosophical thinking on body and fashion.

Ruth Hogben wanted to be a photographer at first, and she had the luck to become the assistant of one of the contemporary top dogs of this art, the famous Nick Knight. One day, while the master was shooting model Lily Donaldson, Hogben decided to use the photoshoot to make a short video. Interested, Knight decided to encourage his pupil in the way of fashion video, and they repeated the experience, within the framework of the website SHOWstudio.
Ruth Hogben
 The duo have then worked for all the rising stars of fashion and design industry : Alexander McQueen, Lady Gaga, Phillipe Starck ... While Knight was shooting designers Rick Owens for magazine Arena Homme (2009), or Martin Margiela's strange hair clothes ( Make up your mind, 2008), his assistant built an impressive self career of fashion filmmaker. For Punk's heir Agent Provocateur, she created a serie of video entitled like a song of Billy Idol, White Wedding (2008)with kitsch and burlesque collages of Kate Moss in lingerie. More than clothes, what fascinates her the most is the body, the aestheticism and eroticism of its movement, as Buttock proves it. A whole video dedicated to this specific body part with a tribute to burlesque and SM, which seems to have escaped from a bobo documentary from Franco-German channel Arte. Not really my cup of tea though.

Gareth Pugh A/W 2009
 What I admire the most in Ruth's work are her more "personal" videos ( understand without the visible influence of Nick Knight ), especially the ones she did for designers Pheobe Philo for Celine and Gareth Pugh. Perfect (2010), her video for Celine, focuses on the discreet elegance of the brand and the sensual body language of the model in a succession of peaceful portaits which delicate light reminds us of Renaissance's paintings. But with Pugh, the filmmaker reaches her height. The unusual shapes and the materials used by the British genius create a genuine alchemy with Hogben's fascination with movement and light.
Gareth Pugh Pitti Immagine 2011
Insensate (2008) is a modern version of Shakespeare's suicide scene of Ophelia. Water, and liquids in general, are a recurring tool in Hogben's videos. For this one, she told us a dark tale, mixing mythology, vampiric imagery and horror movies ( listen to the music ). She starts playing with the Chiaroscuro, a technique used in painting and photography to accentuate the silhouettes. It's a game of shadows, of light and of darkness : the videos are either too dark or too bright, and as Pugh's clothes, often in graphic black and white. The only notable explosion of colours in Hogben's filmography are Frieze (2009), an acid trip in a pop and country music (!) universe, and Untitled (2009), which might have inspired singer Kesha.
Joie de Vivre
But aside her use of classical arts ( painting and classic sculpture ), she seems extremely influenced by burlesque, circus and fun fairs. It is clearly visible in Clown (2009), where model Carmen Kass plays a strange creature, mix of Commedia dell'Arte, of Moulin Rouge's dancer and of prostitute ( the video starts with the words "Dark Annie" which refer to Annie Chapman, a victim of Victorian serial killer Jack the Ripper ). In Joie de Vivre (2010), she pictures model Raquel Zimmerman ( who, really, is of all the best parties ) as a sinistrous Marylin Monroe and as a dark gogo dancer. Everything is dark, especially the not-so-visible-but-latent humour. In her latest videos for Pugh, the models are puppets with broken joints, dancing robots, hula hoop players, actors of Kabuki theatre or even women cut by a digital magician. 
Rick Owens
Ruth Hogben's universe has also to do with contemporary ballets, danced on intense electro music ( often made by Lukid ), with the inflatable capes of Gareth Pugh as tutu. The models are moon-walking on the screen, alone or multiplied ( a good way to be sure the dancers will always be synchronized ! ) and offer to the viewer images of a breathtaking beauty.  This beauty remains in the recent video for Gareth Pugh 2011's collection, but one cannot but notice that the artist doesn't renew herself a lot. The effects are the same, the movements too. Take a look at those two images, extracted from her 2009 and 2011's movies. Very similar, isn't it ?
Gareth Pugh 2009 and 2011
But considering that Ruth Hogben is still young and that her career is already impressive, I guess that her talent will find many new forms in the future, and even if her last video is nothing new, I am still an admirer of her sense of aesthetism and her phantasmagoria. Few are able to do such gorgeous fashion ( and artistic ! ) videos and to make Gareth Pugh's clothes more desirable and fantastic than they already are.
 All images are Ruth Hogben and SHOWstudio all rights reserved.
Gareth Pugh Pitti 2011 and Clown


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