Silent Madness is fashion designer Mowalola Ogunlesi's debut exhibition, taking up the winter residency at NOW Gallery. The fully immersive show marries together the Lagos-born designer's unique Nigerian punk-inspired aesthetic with her penchant for musical expression. The result is a surrealist stage setting emerging from a liquescent explosion of colour accompanied by a multi-channel soundtrack curated by the visitor.
Upon arrival the gallery walls, floor and windows are draped in swathes of fabric bearing red, black, green and yellow prints designed by Mowalola specifically for the exhibition. A ‘band’ of mannequins dripping in shimmering black tar take centre stage with each ‘playing’ a tar-coated instrument, from guitars and drum kit to keys. The Mowalola mannequins stand in black syrup-like pools, wearing custom skin-tight bodysuits to matching their spray-painted faces - by make-up artist Daniel Sallstrom - drawing from his creations for A/W 19. The exhibition aims to disrupt and question preconceptions of normality whilst challenging traditional discourse surrounding black sexuality, encouraging visitors to shed the pressures of convention and live life by their own terms. Mowalola continues to disrupt the fashion industry with her unique vision, notably having dressed Naomi Campbell in a leather white dress complete with a painted gunshot wound.
Last night, Mowalola's extended family gathered in the South-East London gallery to celebrate the launch, proving that Thursday really is the new Friday. Guests including stylists Ibrahim 'Ib' Kamara and Theo White, creative Mischa Notcutt and menswear designer Liam Hodges were sipping on pink grapefruit and tequila mixers. Meanwhile, Mowalola's nearest and dearest leant their musical prowess for the night. The madness was anything but silent as James Massiah took to the decks spinning Future Fambo to T-Pain and a Gwen Stefani 'Hollaback Girl' remix. Later followed by Hasani and Ms Carrie Stacks, Skepta also made an appearance. As the party got into full swing, South London DJ SHYGIRL came out from behind the decks to dance with Mowalola as the designer's Fashion East family came out to support with Lulu Kennedy whooping from the sidelines.
A demonic trailer by Aidan Zamiri released ahead of the exhibition gives a taste of what visitors can look forward to. Mowalola stars as herself writhing in red lighting, clawing at cake and green slime with her lengthy talon nail extensions created by Sylvie Macmillan. SHYGIRL's track 'Uckers'-which takes a sample of a woman's scream and layers it over an infectious, heavy beat- provides the soundtrack to this addictively twisted preview.
Exhibition-goers can expect to see hollowed out speakers housing a set of six retro TV units showing 2-minute films directed by musician and director Finn Mactaggart. Upon entry, visitors will be issued with a set of headphones and an MP3 player with a pre-recorded six-track playlist spanning a contrasting mix of genres. Artists including Lagos producer Santi and musician Maison2500 were invited to create tracks in response to Mowalola who wanted visitors to 'DJ their own experience, to pick what they like and bounce between tracks.' It will be up to the individual which song they choose to inform their visit as they journey through the designer's world.
Silent Madness shows at NOW Gallery for free from 4 December 2019 to 19 January 2020.