Beyond the Fetish: Lorna Murray’s Art

by Michelle

Pastiche and irony, structure and fragility, decadence and utility, are the contrary themes of Lorna Murray’s conceptual designs. Her images explore and interrogate the personae of woman as cultural product, as fetish commodity, as mirror selves in the absence of what is real. In these costumes, fantasy offers the opportunity to confront and renegotiate socially structured identities. Dressed in manipulated orange satin, the curvaceous female body adopts conventional postures to embolden her subversive gestures against backdrops of linear corrugations and symmetrical urban surfaces. Or dressed in tin, rivets, pink silk and fur, she becomes a cyborg accessorised with recycled objects: taps, clocks, spools, purchase tags.

At a symbolic level, there is an interplay between the patriarchal order, the material and the anima. The feminine instinct, which is supple and vulnerable is expressed by the use of decadent fabrics: feathers, luxuriant velvets, lush, embroidered surfaces. Yet the designs are exaggerated in their layering. The manipulation of fabrics evokes memory and cultural boundaries, which stereotype and frame the female form into a sexualised object, a product to be used and exchanged for the pleasure of men. Found objects of everyday use resonate with the anxieties of consumption and sustainability.

Murray’s work wears its sophistication lightly, with fluid referencing of the historical and cultural styles by which women have been shaped. Victorian flourishes of bloomers, lingerie and corsets mash with 80’s fluoros, with 50’s classique, with hints of tartan, and New York sunglasses. Colour becomes iconic. Red is the colour of paradoxes, suggesting danger, vitality, passion, and prostitution. Yellow evokes the intellectual, the stimulant; while orange is at once the shock absorber, the subdued and the seductive, the spectacle of celebrity and the immortality of peach. Pink is chidlike; the woman drowning in fairy floss, in disproportionately sized hats and flouncy fabrics as she critiques and exploits the likeness of herself. Through her work Murray unfixes the codes of female subjectivity as her heroines venture beyond the fetish to a space of semantic indeterminacy.

Adorned in vintage cotton hand-embroidered apron, with suitcase in hand, this contemporary heroine is historically framed in quiet defiance of a domesticity that no longer tethers her.