Interview with Warren Reilly, Summer Showcase participant

We speak to 23-year-old Warren Reilly about their entry to the Voice Summer Showcase.

Interview with Warren Reilly, Summer Showcase participant

For their submission to the 2021 Voice Summer Showcase, Warren submitted images from 'Fashioning our History', a project run as part of Brent 2020: London Borough of Culture, and of which they were the Creative Director for.

We invited Jack Solloway, Marketing Executive at Bloomsbury Digital Resources and former Assistant Editor to Voice, to join current Assistant Editor Saskia Calliste to view the submission and provide feedback to the artist. 

Jack said: "‘Fashioning Our History’ is an excellent project with vision and scope that commands attention through its reclaiming of eighteenth-century dress - with models pictured in the supermarkets of Brent and on High Road, Willesden. Looking beyond the local, its aesthetic verve and focus on diversity and social change showcases incredible artworks while maintaining a strong sense of community and identity. Brilliant."

Saskia said: "A bold, fierce display of fashion with a powerful message. The modernisation of historical dress and wigs against an urban backdrop is inspired. It’s clear each detail was well thought out and strategically placed to make you stop and think. Great effort went into creating this fashion installation piece, and it really shows."

Tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Warren Reilly, I am a 23-year-old, gay, mixed-race (Irish & Jamaican), award-winning social designer and applied artist from the London Borough of Brent. I completed an Art Foundation Course at Kingston University and went on to secure a First Class Bachelors Honours Degree in Textiles in Practice from Manchester School of Art. I became Creative Director of the ‘Fashioning our History’ project as part of Brent 2020: London Borough of Culture funded by the Mayor of London and Brent Council. I have now been named as the local Brent artist who has won a rent-free studio for 2 years in Alperton thanks to affordable workspace provided by Artist’s Studio Company In Alperton, Brent. The affordable workspace was secured by a section 106 agreement for 243 Ealing Road.

Give us a brief description of your submission?

The Fashioning Our History Project explores diversity in fashion and art, through a series of workshops, and talks, culminating in an exhibition of participants work and a fashion installation. The installation is illustrated by community participants, drawing on local knowledge and emotions, and was presented to the public at The Willesden Green Library as part of the final Fashioning our History Exhibition. The Fashioning our History project held a series of workshops for 26 selected applicants which focused on fashion and art. The project also hosted a lecture week in April which was open to all, with a series of Instagram lives and pre-recorded talks from a diverse range of creatives within the fashion and art industries. 

How long have you been practicing your artform?

Since Studying my Art GCSE's, which are now around 9 years ago.

What is some advice you wish you'd had before you started your artform?

Patience and perseverance have been the strongest virtues I have come to embrace within the production of this project, especially while living with this pandemic... I wish someone would have taught me these virtues when I first started out as we are taught from an early age that the art and fashion world moves at lightening speed! As much as it seems like you’re able to plan for everything, nothing has prepared me or anyone else for the situation we have found ourselves in. I know that the time I have spent developing this project from home has allowed me to develop a sense of self-worth and pride in being able to commit myself to an ethos and a message that I truly believe in, and if anything I wish we were encouraged from the start to slow down and take more time to think about the work we want to make and what we want to say to the world through making/designing or creating. 

Who are your artistic inspirations?

I think the First person who inspired me to create this project was my mother, Rosalyn Smith Reilly. I remember myself and my mother finding her portfolio from when she was studying at Kilburn Polytechnic (now the College of North West London) during my second year of university. It’s such a fascinating body of work because I honestly had no idea it existed despite the fact I have always known my mother was passionate about art, fashion, history and illustration. Apart from my mother, my inspirations for the project have come from great British designers such as Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano and of course, Lee Alexander McQueen as well as other contemporary designers such as Charles Jeffery, Richard Quinn, Simone Rocha & Oswald Boateng. I also adore the work of artists such as Yinka Shonibare and Grayson Perry, whose use of fashion & costume within the fine art world has directly in influenced my desire to blur the lines between art and fashion. However, I would say the project also has a direct link to the lives of historic individuals. Figures I have been obsessed with and researching since a young age including Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and Marie Antoinette. This also includes more diverse subjects I had explored in my dissertation, the fascinating lives of Dido Elizabeth Belle and Sarah Forbes Bonetta who lived during the 18th and 19th Centuries. Their personal stories, defying racial norms, empowering female history and representing the black cultural presence within British history has further ignited the need for us all to research more diverse narratives.

To see Warren's submission, click here

To see all the submissions to the 2021 Voice Summer Showcase, follow this link.

Header Image Credit: Provided


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