A Review of the Goss Brothers in Shoreditch, London
“Soon it would be too hot. Looking out from the hotel balcony shortly after eight o’clock, Kerans watched the sun rise behind the dense groves of giant gymnosperms crowding over the roofs of the abandoned department stores four hundred yards away on the east side of the lagoon. Even through the massive olive-green fronds the relentless power of the sun was plainly tangible. The blunt refracted rays drummed against his bare chest and shoulders, drawing out the first sweat, and he put on a pair of heavy sunglasses to protect his eyes. The solar disc was no longer a well-defined sphere, but a wide expanding ellipse that fanned out across the eastern horizon like a colossal fire-ball. Its reflection turning the dead leaden surface of the lagoon into a brilliant copper shield. By noon, less than four hours away, the water would seem to burn.” – The Drowned World by J. G. Ballard.
In the opening paragraph of his cult sci-fi novel The Drowned World (1962), the British writer J. G. Ballard sets the scene of a post-apocalyptic London, transformed into a sweltering lagoon inhabited by Triassic lizards and screeching birds, engulfed by lush vegetation, too hot, too dangerously mesmerising for humans to live there.
Writing in a present day 30° degrees London, lulled by the tropical chirping of now-local green parakeets, surrounded by issues of the National Geographic heralding the melting of the Antarctica ice caps, it is not hard to understand how the imagery evoked by Ballard captured the imagination of the Goss Brothers who recently launched a fashion line for Folk Clothing inspired by this prescient book.
The two brothers, Nick and Phil, both artists with independent practices, teamed up to create a summer capsule collection developed around aquatic themes, featuring alligators, birds, and a pulsating red sun – all elements central to Ballard’s novel as well. The items are truly pieces of wearable art, screen-printed onto Folk’s signature high-quality fabrics, which bring the story alive and reflect the artists’ unique vision.
“Submerged tower blocks, carnivals of alligators, the surface of the water burning in the sun – Ballard has an incredible way of describing a scene and giving the reader enough room to develop their own interpretations. [He] returns to certain images again and again” – the Goss Brothers state. Certainly, for those who have read the novel, it is clear how the artists have a deep understanding of it and have succeeded in isolating the most significant iconology to convey the book’s atmosphere without being too literal or didascalic.
The artistic significance of the fashion collection was further enhanced at the launch party in the Folk pop-up shop on Redchurch Street, Shoreditch, by the presentation of the clothes alongside the artists’ original sketches and Nick Goss’ larger-scale paintings inspired by similar themes.
Large bodies of water gleaming in the sun, refracting deep indigo and bright yellow speckles characterise much of Nick Goss’ painterly practice. His landscapes pierce through the raw linen like childhood summertime memories: partially faded and yet suddenly vivid with the most brilliant hues.
Like most memories, Nick’s paintings can be as joyful as they can be haunting. Mostly devoid of human presence, his works depict a man-made world that has been abandoned – it is not clear whether temporarily or permanently – but still bears the traces of inhabiting. Here, the painter’s gaze resembles that of an explorer’s, or an archeologist’s, arriving after-the-fact, when everything lies perfectly still and movement lingers only in the echo of a memory.
One of the most poignant artworks on show was a painting inspired by an image drawn from a bit of local news from a few months ago, when parts of Angel, London abruptly flooded. In Nick Goss’ reinterpretation, the familiar corner of London is turned into an unwitting sibling of Venice: all markers of civilisation submerged or lapped by the swelling tide of the newly formed lagoon. The undulating ripples of water glimmer in the light reflected from the lampposts as the gaze of the viewer recedes and exits the boundaries of the canvas. There, the ripples continue, echoed by those printed on the Folk sweater designed by Goss Brothers. Only, the cobalt blue reflection has now turned oxblood red. As the Brothers note “the sun in the novel is not a stable yellow sphere but is rather a volatile red mass. It is always present in the sky, between the buildings and reflected in the mirror-like water.”
Goss Brothers’ collection launched on July 6th and is now available to buy online on folkclothing.com and in selected stores such as Liberty London.
Written by Alisei Apollonio, a Contributor to Arteviste.