Updated: Oct 14
This week we will be exploring the various projects of Complex Simplicity, a Fashion & Textiles Designer/Maker who has been organising events, creating art projects with local councils and conducting their own fashion/textile workshops.
Complex Simplicity is an artist who has a wide practice through creating fashion, sculptures ,as well as organising workshops. If you want to find out more about their artwork you can read our Q&A below. You can find more images of their recent projects @csinspiredby or visit their website. You can also find their recent sculpture Mind, Body & Soul exhibited in our online exhibition Locked-Down over at the Oddball Gallery.
Can you briefly describe your art practice?
I’m a Fashion & Textiles Designer/Maker with an Art & Design background & passionate about creativity! I specialise in producing bespoke designs & limited-edition collections. I love designing avant-garde outfits and site-specific installations for corporate events & dance/theatre companies. I also design clothes for clients to add to their own wardrobe – often something special for a special occasion or themed event.
Examples of previous fashion collections/photo shoots
Is there a piece of art that you are most proud of creating? Why?
If I had to choose, I’d have to say one of the most significant ones to date would be a previous commission for a local Arts Festival. I created a coat which was created using a variety of materials, techniques and construction methods which depicted imagery/text inspired by World War I. It was particularly poignant as it featured photos of my late grandfather (in-law) who had served in the war and was an incredibly inspirational, strong character – displaying values and traits I admire and respect which I feel are seemingly diminishing within today’s society at times. I wanted to create an item that appeared aged and worn, with a true sense of history and I consider that was achieved.
To see the final creation displayed in a prominent position outside of the Town Hall was a proud moment, knowing not only of the symbolism due to the overall theme responded to, but also because of the emotional attachment and inspiration experienced during the creation of it. It represented a humble tribute to those that not only served in the war, but also all who dedicated their lives, made sacrifices in different ways and paved the way for so many things we often take for granted nowadays. In particular, the truly personable connection made it even more important for me to complete the work in a suitable way. Designed & created for a local Arts Festival. Commissioned by a local Council.
Images of World war-inspired commission (Coat)
Another rewarding creation of artwork was the result a commemorative arts engagement programme produced with school students during a residency, which was inspired by the testimony of a Holocaust survivor and exhibited in a public exhibition. This was a humbling, memorable collaboration I was proud to be involved with.
Public exhibition following Artist residency at a secondary school (Holocaust survivor Testimony – Collaboration)
What drove you to create Complex Simplicity?
Fashion has been a passion of mine for many years. Complex Simplicity was created to share my love of design and encourage clients from all walks of life to embrace their uniqueness and individuality, by wearing creative designs that reflect & embrace their style and personality with pride. I love creating designs for people that find it difficult to find styles, sizes and fabrics that suit their lifestyle and budget. My desire is for the wearer to feel comfortable and confident while encouraging their design choices to embrace their persona, renew their inner confidence and display their carefree attitude that refuses to conform to what society attempts to dictate and dilute in mainstream avenues.
Illustration by Complex Simplicity – Mixed Media. 2020
Is there an element of art you like or dislike working with? Why?
I genuinely love all elements of my creative practice and my excitement & passion grows daily! If I am asked to create something I haven’t necessarily done before or unsure of, I embrace the challenge even more as it makes it even more exciting! I love developing techniques, exploring creative methods and responding to new ideas I may not have previously considered. I honestly believe you are never too advanced to learn! My love of travel also allows me to be inspired by a variety of fabrics, techniques and traditions which I enjoy combining with contemporary elements.
In addition to my design work, I also deliver community and educational workshops & courses and love sharing my design knowledge/skills with others – it’s often the case that their enthusiasm, approach and desire to learn about design often reignites my creative passion even more! I find it so refreshing and reminds me how lucky I am to be doing something I love so much as it has no boundaries and can be made to fully inclusive for all to enjoy.
Over the last few years I’ve been particularly expanding on workshops which focus on the positive impact of the Arts on mental health and emotional well-being and I’m so pleased that the value of this has finally started to be acknowledged and recognised on a national scale.
Sewing/Example of items in progress during the manufacturing process whilst in production
We have recently exhibited your Mind, Body & Soul sculpture in our virtual exhibition Locked Down. Can you tell us about your making process for this piece?
I experimented with a variety of techniques, materials and application methods as I wanted to genuinely explore my creativity and push the boundaries by combining different, contrasting effects yet still allowed the final piece to flow in the manner I envisaged but remaining open-minded to it evolving in a natural manner. Easily accessible, economical items such as tissue paper, metallic wires, paper doilies, pipe cleaners and metallic spray paints were combined with specialist (textiles) materials, craft glue/sealant and a variety of techniques/application methods. Tyvek and Lutrador are two examples of specific Textiles materials used (with a heat gun) to create different textures and effects – ranging from a bubbling appearance to a cobweb-like effect. What I love about them both is the inability to create the same result twice.
Hand-painted and collage-inspired imagery & text applied to the mannequin form are perfect examples of how simple elements can be combined with Textiles techniques and hopefully inspire others to trial some of the techniques on other items for similar, equally effective results.
Other ideas used included twisting pipe cleaners together & creating heart shaped features, wrapping thin metallic wire around a pencil to create different shapes and art-journaling influences combined with painted elements and applied with a sponge or paintbrush.
The glass head form was sprayed with a metallic spray paint and allowed to drip naturally to result in a truly natural end result. Metallic wires were distorted and placed inside the glass head for added interest.
Complex Simplicity, Mind, Body & Soul, Sculpture, 2020
What themes were you looking to explore through your sculpture?
The commissioned piece was a creative response to ‘Looking In, Reaching Out’ – a theme devised by a local Council – specifically intended to create a body of work as an artist working in isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to the evident impact on so many lives affected by Covid-19, reflection on connecting with others and the effects of my creative practise during the period were important elements for consideration also. It allowed the opportunity for me to address the impact of the issues faced and explore my own feelings – with some surprising results! It was an amazing experience to be part of. I am often working to a tight deadline or a set theme/brief, so to be able to create a commissioned piece that allowed me to honestly explore my inner feelings and thoughts and be truly absorbed in the creative process and journey was rare and quite an insightful experience!
The creation of this piece purposely involved a variety of techniques and application methods as I wanted to create something that pushed my creative boundaries and utilise various methods and materials for visual appeal. My intention was to inspire others of varying abilities to explore their own creativity so created a short video to demonstrate how some of the techniques were achieved and to view the work in progress which you can view here.
Examples of Textiles techniques and experiments with mixed media
What projects have you recently completed?
I usually have at least a handful of projects on the go at any one time! In addition to ongoing bespoke commissions for private clients, I am currently working on a home-ware (soft furnishing) collection as I’m in the process of expanding my Interiors range. I’m also in the process of delivering my first series of online Fashion workshops to students in collaboration with Education Centres in Hampshire.
Example of Artwork (Acrylics & Mixed Media on Canvas)
Why do you make this type of art?
Fashion design will always be my first love – without a doubt. I love the intrigue, the drama, the impact and emotions I can create by the use of fabrics, cutting and sewing. Couple that with unexpected materials & items and it provides a whole new twist. Top it with traditional techniques combined with contemporary influences and it bonds generations/cultures. The list goes on…
Example of Fashion Illustration
However, I love the way my path has allowed me to introduce so many new elements in my creative journey, including Interior design, delivering courses to Educational establishments/workshops for Community groups etc…
My experience and approach now allow me to be constantly open-minded to new opportunities, to be excited by new challenges and not to pigeon-hole my skills as they are transferable and adaptable. I now enjoy peeking through new doors to see if/where they lead to. If you don’t try new things, you’ll never know…
What kind of artists influence you the most?
I have quite a broad range of artistic influences as I work on such a variety of themes/collections within the various areas of my work. I have a deep-rooted passion for a number of artists including Paul Gauguin (colours/subject matter – Tahitian Women on the Beach – one of my all-time favourites), Picasso (Cubism period), Matisse (Blue Nude), Rodin (Sculpture). Fave fashion designers include Thierry Mugler (silhouettes/drama), Jean-Paul Gaultier (design details), Bruce Oldfield (classic), Yohji Yamamoto (experimentation with fabrics) as well as lesser-known designers not yet “discovered” internationally. To tell the truth, there are too many to list! One of the main things on my ‘Things to Do in my life” list was to visit the Getty Museum. Ticked it off a few years ago while visiting the States & I’m not going to lie – almost cried a few (happy!) tears to see some of my long-time favourite pieces of art “in reality”! It was pretty overwhelming to see them close up – the scale, colours, content, detail….Everything!
What one thing would you like to change about the art industry today?
Art to reach a wider audience on a consistent basis. In my opinion, there’s still often a stigma associated with Modern Art in particular. Some that are not in frequent exposure to it often refer back to the “It’s not art…I could do that” argument, having no idea of the emotional journey an Artist often experiences while creating a piece of work. Others in specific circles are not always forthcoming to sharing their work, skills knowledge in a non-judgemental, non-condescending manner to all. There’s work to be done to narrow the gap between the two extremes and encourage all art to be appreciated, shared and understood – regardless of status, income bracket or background.
Artists everywhere have had to adapt to the sudden impact of COVID-19. Has your practice changed in any way during this time?
Definitely! One of the most positive outcomes that has emerged for me is that I’ve had to quickly adapt my delivery methods/style and sharing of work by utilising my online presence more effectively. Although not a complete technophobe, I’m not far off and embracing technology to widen my links has been something I’d probably have kept (unintentionally) putting off or “just not getting around to”. Current (social distancing) guidelines and (travel) restrictions in existence since lock-down allowed me to face the reality of having the choice to put everything on hold or adapt and progress. Fortunately, I took the plunge and the latter naturally happened without too much thought and I’ve been fortunate with the doors that have opened as a direct result.
I’ve had opportunities to share my work with a wider audience and likewise expanded my sources of inspiration/networking by the change of circumstances. It’s slowly increasing my confidence as although I much prefer to be getting on with things “behind-the-scenes”, it’s challenged me to reach beyond my usual “safe circle” of network groups & that’s gotta be a good thing for personal and professional development, right?! I’ve also started delivering my first series of online Fashion courses to students within the last week – new territory, again as a direct result of Covid-19/guidelines. I frequently travel throughout the UK to work with young people who are not currently in mainstream education but benefit from interaction from such courses to improve their social and creative skills, while allowing them an opportunity to focus their attention and channel their energy in a positive way.
Example of Fashion hat designed and produced in conjunction with students
Fashion/Textiles course devised & delivered by Complex Simplicity
You’re welcome to add anything else if you feel it is important to add.
I’m excited about the future as I have some exciting developments coming up very soon involving the development of Complex Simplicity – Watch this space!
You can view more of Complex Simplicity's work and contact them here:
If you are interested in being featured as an Artist of the Week you can fill out a short application form here.