The other day I was on Youtube when a notification popped up – a new video by Karlie Kloss on the making of her wedding dress. Designed by Dior, it transcends elegance and grace, an embodiment of a wedding dress.
Most importantly, a long, laced, and hand-crafted veil completes the significant garment. Indeed, a veil, an article of clothing or cloth intended to cover some part of the head or face had major historical and religious connotations.
As early as ancient Mesopotamia to Roman period, women wore veils as a sign of status. Gradually, it was incorporated as part of a garment at weddings and funerals. While many perceived it as an accessory, its significance is beyond ordinary perception. By the 14th Century, veils are a bold statement in Italian portraitures. When worn by a female, it differentiates her social class and identity; It signifies her as a married female. Furthermore, veils are a strong representation in people who identify as Christian, Catholic and Muslims. In particular, many Muslim women wears hijabs as a way to state their independence against the control of men. By the rise of modernism, the new epoch adds a new layer of understanding.
In 2018, Gagaosian showcased The Veil Paintings, a solo-exhibition by Damien Hirst. A veil to the artist, as he graciously defined is “a barrier, a curtain between two things, something that you can look at and pass through. It’s solid yet invisible and reveals and yet obscures the truth, the thing that we are searching for”1. Thus, when Edouard Malingue Gallery revealed its latest exhibition Folded Veil , I was intrigued to see how six artists defined and conveyed their perception of veils. Taking Hirst’s definition into consideration, the gallery’s Contemporary approach prompts us to consider under what subconscious influence does it instiage us to make markings, symbols that reflects our existence.
In Folded Veil, Fabien Mérelle (b.1981, France) presents ‘Untitled’ (2011) , a series of 20 delicate ink on paper drawings of individuals who characterizes as wanderers. In a minute scale, these drawings take prominence in comparison to the rest of the exhibits. Placed in a sparse white background, its symbolism with cleanliness and purity strongly contradicts with negative connotations of people living on the street. Dressed in earth toned clothing in a slouch posture, along with blankets and umbrellas, this selected combination merely reinforces our memory of the homeless. It shields their societal status from the rest of the population. Drawn in an intricate scale, Mérelle engages us to reflect how gestures and items could easily affect our perception of an individual. In relation to Folded Veil, I believe the artist wanted to utilize the impact of representative items, such as clothing, to propose a figurative equivalent of a veil as a method to conceal their plausible alternative identities.
In reference to our need to make markings and symbols to validate our existence, I propose it is our way of rationalizing our society and the world we live in. For example, All Models Are Wrong, Some Are Useful by Ester Fleckner (b.1983, Denmark) presents polyhedron shapes that emulate the action of folding and unfolding. This basis of this series of woodcut prints correspond to mathematical concepts, which is applied in all areas; from technological data analysis, to cultural significance like the methods on origami. Furthermore, such numerical concept can be further applied to human psychological understanding. In general, these repetitive models represents our methods of trial and errors, miss and deviances. Thus, when we compare Mérelle’s figurative series with Fleckner’s conceptual series, I believe one must evolve the theme of the veil from its traditional concept of a barrier. Rather, in a contemporary setting, the folded veil is likely to convey our existence through the markings, symbols; trials and errors. These signs of existence are not arbitrary, but a beautiful result of our attempts in folding and unfolding to evince our existence.
The Veil Paintings, Damien Hirst, Gagosian Gallery.
Image courtesy of Edouard Malingue Gallery and the artist