Go & See Bursaries: Alison Macleod


Forming part of our professional development strand, the Go & See travel bursaries aim to assist professional artists and makers to visit events and exhibitions outwith the region that are relevant to the development of their practice.

This report was written by Alison Macleod who visited the exhibition Tim Walker: Wonderful Things at the V&A in London (November 2019)

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Soldiers of Tomorrow inspired by a photograph of the Bayeux Tapestry
Soldiers of Tomorrow inspired by a photograph of the Bayeux Tapestry

As a teenage subscriber to Vogue UK in the late 1990s I felt an immediate connection to photographer Tim Walker’s first shoots for the magazine. Their sense of chaotic narrative appealed to me far more than the clean lines of regular high fashion shoots. From then on, his relationship with the magazine continued and I went onto Art College always sighting his work as an influence. So, delight of delights when it was announced that he was to have a major exhibition at London’s V&A Museum and I swiftly arranged a visit.

Tim Walker: Wonderful Things starts with one gallery of retrospective photographs but then opens out into a number of spaces dedicated to new works each inspired and exhibited alongside an individual object from the V&A’s collection. It was a joyous thought to imagine being given free reign of such an extensive and prestigious collection and compelling to see Walker’s choices.

Each set of photographs were exhibited in immersive gallery spaces filled with elements of the photography set. I was particularly drawn to the cini films of the photoshoots which somehow filled the gaps and brought even more life to the finished still images. Also Walker’s lively sketchbooks, cluttered with clippings and quotes, added to an understanding of how things come together. What became apparent when walking through each gallery was the long list of collaborators working on each project, from set designers to stylists to hair and makeup, and on and on, a team who Walker trusts to evoke his vision, respectful relationships honed over many years.

My highlights of the exhibition included works inspired by a 65 meters long hand tinted photograph of the Bayeux Tapestry made in 1873, a remarkable piece in itself which Walker interprets into a set of photos of models dressed in armour made from recycled and handmade materials (handknitted chainmail, old ironing boards as shields) depicted in padded rooms. He describes these characters as ‘eco-warriors the soldiers of tomorrow’.

image from Handle with Care

images inspired by Cloud Sky by John Constable and Fig Leaf for David (pictured left)

Another favourite was a group of photographs entitled Handle with Care, an appreciation of the conservators, curators and archivists of the V&A. The resulting photos show models dressed in beautiful designer gowns barely visible under ghostly nets and wooden cases especially designed to conserve garments when they are not on display.

I also loved a set of works where Walker examines the full spectrum of masculinity, drawing from one of Constable’s glorious skyscapes (Cloud Sky 1822) and a large plaster fig leaf fabled to have been made to protect Michelangelo’s David’s modestly during a visit to the museum by Queen Victoria in the mid 1800s. Walker’s photographs, seen through a fish eye lens, depict male models moving dramatically in full skirted dresses and are an insightful interpretation of the source material.

I came away from the exhibition feeling a continued connection and fuller understanding of the visionary photographer who drew me in as an aspiring jewellery designer more than 20 years ago.