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Ribbons by Matty Bovan

Start Date 30 November 2022
End Date 05 March 2023
Venue NOW Gallery
Location London, U.K.
Curator Matty Bovan and Jemima Burrill
Exterior view of the gallery with 'RIBBONS' painted in large, blue and pink font.
Gallery view showing a large, colourful knitted structure which visitors can sit inside, made of ribbons.

NOW Gallery presents ‘RIBBONS’ by MATTY BOVAN, opening Wednesday 30 November 2022. A site-specific participatory installation, it presents an immersive exploration of the York-based designer’s textile-rich work, which is always underpinned by raw craft. The celebrated designer has been awarded this year’s NOW Gallery 2022 Fashion Commission, which gives fashion designers a remarkable opportunity to explore creativity beyond the garment and create their own world within the multi-faceted gallery expanse.

The ribbon as a symbol of the feminine is taken to a much larger scale than it’s traditional use as mere trimming, with amorphous forms in varying knitted constructions, from tight through to loose weave, creating a tough towering structure of poetic aggression that traverses the full cavernous depth and ceiling height of the gallery, entirely knitted from thousands and thousands of meters of ribbons, where Bovan has created his own world juxtaposing fantasy and reality.

The central knitted ribbon structure, suggestive of a piece of clothing, perhaps a sweater – could the separate tubular constructions be sleeves? – invites visitors to absorb the exhibition from its innards, where a series of 3 exclusive new films, each with its own narrative and characters all wearing custom Matty Bovan clothing, are collaged across 3 screens in varying sizes, loaded with saturated colour, illustrating light and dark. Bovan says: “I have layered and manipulated footage with colour and texture, which shift and meld into new forms constantly evolving, blending reality and fantasy, two worlds I constantly push and pull in and out of.”  Within this cocoon, he has created a custom rug, further enhancing the textural frequency of ‘RIBBONS’ and its violent colour and shine.”

Matty Bovan says: “Ribbons is my most personal project to date, a world built in my truest vision. The films in particular have been a labour of love. Shooting, art directing and working on the soundtracks has allowed me to fully realise and give flesh and bones to what I had set out to achieve.”  He continues: “I want people to be able to escape into the RIBBONS world, to be able to dream, and to want to create their own world, however abstract or literal they wish. My world is full of dreams and nightmares, much like real life, but i do overall believe this a positive world I have built.”

The exhibition also features a curved wall of large-scale Matty Bovan painted canvases, the first time such works have been shown in public, created to compliment this multi-faceted exihbition, exploring words and textures, creating visual poems across the gallery scape. He has also collaborated with master perfumers VYRAO to scent key installation elements to heighten the sensory aspect, opting for a layering of their ‘I Am Verdant’ (starting over), ‘Magnetic 79’ (magnetism), and ‘Georgette’ (self-love) fragrances, working closely with founder Yasmin Sewell on his selection.

He has also created exclusive merchandise to accompany the show, which includes screen-printed hoodies, a special sweatshirt featuring knitted ribbons, T-shirts, and totes, as well as a limited edition ‘RIBBONS’ book featuring exhibition imagery. His mother Plum Bovan has designed exclusive painted clay earrings and kilt pins to accompany it all.

Matty Bovan says: ‘I am so excited to show another side of my world with “RIBBONS,” a more intimate and special place. I’m ready to invite people into a multisensory world of epic scale. My grandma taught me to knit at age 11, and I have never looked back. Passing down skills and exciting people about craft is a central focus of my work. Ribbon is usually used as a trim or flourish in fashion and craft; here I am taking the idea of a small-scale, somewhat apologetic trim, and blowing it up with full brute force of energy and hardcore craft! There will also be a chance for people to get involved with interactive show elements, which illustrate the importance – and fun – of craft and making things yourself. It’s our future.’

NOW Gallery Curator, Jemima Burrill, says: ‘Watching his London Fashion Week presentation during Lockdown, Matty Bovan burnt a hole in my retina. The film he created was nothing like anything I had seen before. It struck a nerve and made fashion exciting again even at the bleakest hour. He had to be the next NOW Fashion Commission, whatever he came up with would rupture our space and 
make us think about clothes, life and who we are – in a different way.’