Ten’s To See: Mowalola’s ‘Silent Madness’ at NOW Gallery
Move over The Hex Girls, there’s a new spooky band in town – and they’re coming for blood. For her first solo exhibition, Fashion East designer Mowalola has transformed the Now Gallery in Greenwich Peninsula into a concert arena that looks as if it has survived the apocalypse. The focal point is a quartet of menacing mannequins. Taking centre stage, they shred guitars, man the keys and play the drums with a ferocious bite – all whilst a groupie stands at the sidelines, ready to chuck a boot into the crowd. The top of their heads spiked, their torsos clad in tie-dye catsuits from the designer’s 2017 graduate collection – it’s like watching the Sex Pistols whilst on Acid.
Commissioned by Jemima Burrill, Silent Madness is an excellently curated chaos. The exhibition aligns with the Nigerian punk-inspired oeuvre the designer has crafted thus far. Since graduating from Central Saint Martins, Mowalola has mastered an aesthetic rampant with hyper-sexuality whilst nodding to Nigerian rock music from the 1970s. Think barely-there skirts and dangerously low waistlines paired with floor-length leather trench coats and slightly askew mohawks. In the process, Mowalola has used her designs to question archaic ideals surrounding men not being able to express sexuality through dress – cladding her models in everything from neon PVC trousers and halter-neck tops, to green cow-print flares.
Stepping into the glass space next to the Greenwich tube station, you’re greeted with an MP3 player packed with a pre-recorded playlist of tracks by on-going collaborators and close pals of the designer. From a reverb-laden poem curtesy of James Massiah to Shygirl’s screeching banger Uckers – it’s down to the spectator to choose which tune they deem most suited to soundtrack the experience.
Getting down and dirty, the instruments on display are smothered in a thick tar, slithering into pools at the mannequins’ ankles. The sticky black texture also coats screens which play short and snappy clips that collide into one another. Both psychedelic and slightly creepy, the films courtesy of Jordan Hemingway, Jamie Reid and experimental musician Yves Tumour, feature faces morphing into one another and alien-like creatures staggering into the opaque unknown. Whilst attempting to absorb this method of madness, you’re towered by draping swatches of fabric doused in graphics made in collaboration with Leo Columbo. The curtains burst with the vivid hues that have quickly become Mowalola signatures. Burnt oranges, blood reds and Nickelodeon slime greens drip from the drapes, the mannequins and even their curled acrylics.
Through Silent Madness, Mowalola envisions new worlds, fresh prospects and dismantles the fear of entering the unknown. Like her designs, the exhibition challenges perceived notions of what’s considered desirable, sexy even. Mowalola grapples convention, smothers it in tar and douses it in vivid, neon technicolour – we wouldn’t have it any other way.
‘Silent Madness’ by Mowalola is open at Now Gallery in Greenwich Peninsula until January 19, 2020.