THE FASHION ICON THAT INSPIRES ARTISTS AND PHOTOGRAPHERS ALIKE
Few women have had an impact such as Kate Moss on contemporary art and photography. Discussing her global influence on the fashion world at this point would be redundant, as we’ve all heard the name and have seen those prominent cheekbones and that piercing gaze headlining titanic fashion campaigns.
Born in Surrey and discovered as a model at the green age of fourteen, Kate Moss arrived at the end of the ‘supermodel’ era, rising to fame in the early ‘90s and becoming an icon of the ‘heroin chic’ fashion trend at the century’s end instead.
Her first photoshoots at sixteen exuded ‘dirty realism’, as Corinne Day – photographer for ‘The Face’ – called them. Her waifish figure and unforgettable features have made her one of the world’s most valued ‘anti-supermodels’, vividly contrasting to standards previously set by models of the moment, such as Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer and Naomi Campbell. Her sheer presence on the runway was considered controversial at first, and people found it difficult to accept that Kate was simply being her natural and unapologetic self.
In 1999, Vogue selected her as one of their “Modern Muses”, and she was featured on the magazine’s cover and once again seared into the global memory as the sort of timeless beauty that never aims for perfection. Kate has been the subject of a plethora of photographers throughout her career, and is rightfully considered a living chapter of fashion history. Mario Testino, Steven Klein, Mario Sorrenti, Juergen Teller, Peter Lindbergh and Annie Leibovitz, to name but a few, have captured her image throughout the years.
She has been featured in ad campaigns of fashion giants such as Chanel, Balenciaga, Burberry, Versace, Alexander Wang, Givenchy, Roberto Cavalli, Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen, Agent Provocateur and Calvin Klein, among others – the latter being one of her most important collaborations and the catalyst of her career as a model. Who could possibly forget the ingénue visage captured by Patrick Demarchelier in the 1992 New York campaign for Calvin Klein?
Kate Moss has also played a pivotal role in contemporary art as a ‘modern muse’, the untold stories beneath her soft smile and hazel eyes inviting artists to portray her in a myriad of versions – collages and mixed media, full-scale paintings and Andy Warhol-esque renditions, sculptures and nimble watercolours alike, Kate Moss has inspired contemporary artists and even musicians to create works about her and for her.
Today, Kate is somehow already immortal. Her sharp cheekbones, her parted lips and evocative expressions have been printed and painted and drawn in a thousand ways, and yet we can’t have enough. More is always welcome – the world loves it and private collectors don’t shy away either.
British Pop Art loves her as well – she was recently featured in a one-of-a-kind exhibition and auction held by Sotheby’s in London, ‘Made in Britain’. Portraits of Kate Moss by acclaimed light artist Chris Levine and soft-power enforcer Banksy were featured alongside classics of an English era – yet another testimony in her favour as an undisputed source of inspiration across multiple fields.
For Chris Levine, in particular, the artistic endeavour of portraying Kate Moss was a different experience altogether. While most artists find power in movement, Chris seeks out the light in stillness. His subjects are usually larger than life – Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Grace Jones, and the Dalai Lama are at the top of the list and, as of 2013, Kate Moss joined his portfolio through the stunning rendition titled ‘She’s Light’.
“Every opportunity I got [to shoot a portrait], I tried to distil it back to just pure essence without any suggestion or iconography or anything,” he once told TIME Magazine, ahead of his solo show at the Fine Art Society on 17th May 2013.
Even more so, Chris decided to step away from what other artists had done before him – immortalising the fashion model Kate Moss, and instead ignored her and brought her back to simply Kate. He managed to strip away the glamour and weight of the commercial persona revered by millions, and showed the world a Kate that had never been seen before – a still being in a new light, with eyes closed and luscious red lips.
For Kate, a woman often haunted by the press and the judgment of millions of complete strangers, being shown as a pure and minimal figure with such a strong visual impact seemed like a breath of fresh air. It pointed to her humanity. It drew the attention away from the spotlights and the newspaper headlines. It highlighted her other, much quieter side – the stillness that comes with experience and exposure to antagonising factors.
‘She’s Light’ became a masterpiece of the 21st century, blending photography and art and light in a format never-before-attempted. Chris Levine first presented this series of portraits – including the diptych, the lenticular lightbox and multiple archival inkjet print versions at the Fine Art Society in 2013. Later on, the portrait was also unveiled as a ‘permanent resident’ of the Charlotte Tilbury store in Soho – Ms Tilbury being a long-time friend and collaborator of Kate Moss.
According to Chris, works like ‘She’s Light’ have struck a chord with millions of viewers, as it takes them “into a more spiritual dimension and into a deeper realm”. He goes on to say that “it’s what we are, but people don’t very often connect with it,” during the same Times Magazine interview.
Most importantly, ‘She’s Light’ is yet another palpable moment of Kate’s fascinating presence in visual arts. To this day, she continues to inspire artists and photographers alike – including legendary photographer Don McCullin, who will soon publish his own take on a woman that has redefined beauty and fashion at the end of the 20th century.
For more images and details about Kate Moss, ‘She’s Light’, as well as other stunning works of art, visit Chris Levine’s website.