exploring the north of england’s influence on fashion and visual culture

The North, so much to answer for.

02 November 2016, 6:04pm

Photography Brett Dee, The Anarchy Issue, no. 82, 1990

No matter where in England you live, "The North" means something. Conceptual in a way that the south, as a cohesive expanse, is not, journeying just a couple of hours outside of the capital can occasionally feel like crossing some sort of cultural border. The difference is political, it's linguistic, it's climactic, for goodness sake; a big, complicated, powerful land where chips are chips and the rain soaks you through.

And yet. The North is not all football and mushy peas (although, of course, to some extent it is). The North is poetry, it's politics, romance and humour. A vague yet tangible mix of beauty and truth, the indelible influence of which is set to be celebrated with an exhibition at Liverpool's Open Eye Gallery next year.

Co-curated by SHOWstudio's Lou Stoppard and bona fide Northerner Adam Murray, co-founder of the essential Preston Is My Paris photography collective, North opens on 6 January and explores the way in which the region has been "depicted, constructed and celebrated in select photographs, artworks and fashion collections".

Photography Jason Evans, Untitled, Manchester, 1997

Containing early work by Jamie Hawkesworth and Alasdair McLellan, alongside fashion garments by Christopher Shannon, John Skelton and a brand new collaboration between Virgil Abloh and Hacienda designer Ben Kelly, the show aims to consolidate our collective visions of the North, unpicking the tropes and themes that recur within the worlds of both design and media.

"The regional identity of Northern England has been central to my practice for many years," says Murray. "I want this exhibition to be an opportunity for people to consider how the work of artists that have intrigued and informed me, relate to their own life experience. Collaborating with Open Eye Gallery has given us a real opportunity to place the work back in the context of Liverpool, a city that has had such a significant role in creative culture." It can be grim up North, sure. But it can be just as brilliant too. 

Raf Simons autumn/winter 03. Image courtesy of Raf Simons.

Photography Alasdair McLellan, Boy at the Saint Leger Fair, Doncaster, September 2005

Photography Stephen McCoy, From the series Skelmersdale, 1984


Text Matthew Whitehouse