An exhibition of Chinese couture designer Guo Pei’s work is on at the Vancouver Art Gallery until Jan. 20, 2019. (Ursula Maxwell-Lewis)

COLUMN: Guo Pei exhibition offers an ‘unforgettable’ experience

Chinese couture designer Guo Pei’s work is ‘beyond fabulous’

By Ursula Maxwell-Lewis

Cloverdale Reporter

Guo Pei Couture Beyond, Vancouver Arts Gallery’s signature exhibit, offers artists, clothiers, storytellers, photographers and day-trippers an unforgettable art, fabric, and fashion experience.

This talented Chinese designer challenges viewers to explore the hidden secrets and design dramas of her carefully crafted works. Collections like Samsara (2006), An Amazing Journey in a Childhood Dream, (2008), or 1002 Nights (2010) (to name just a few) will hold you hostage while analyzing, investigating and admiring the workmanship. The stories behind the designs are equally captivating.

Each gallery depicts a phase of the designer’s career, and her mindset at the time. Two aspects in particular stood out for me.

Legend (Spring 2017) pays tribute to Switzerland’s historic St. Gallen Cathedral, one of Europe’s most significant Benedictine abbeys. Working with Swiss fabric manufacturer Jakob Schlaepfer, this collection includes a batch of golden fabric weighing only 890 grams per metre. Woven with metal fibre and silk thread, image details emerge reflecting the spirit of devotion, saints and medieval warriors. “A part of my soul will always hold onto the most beautiful fantasies inspired by legends,” says Guo Pei in an accompanying statement.

Manchu history heavily influences Guo Pei’s shoe collections. You recognize the relationship to the Manchu Flower Pot, or horse hoof, platform shoes.

Look for motivating traditional Chinese motifs, such as the lotus, mountains or cloud and thunder.

An exhibition of Chinese couture designer Guo Pei's work is on at the Vancouver Art Gallery until Jan. 20, 2019.
An exhibition of Chinese couture designer Guo Pei’s work is on at the Vancouver Art Gallery until Jan. 20, 2019.

Ursula Maxwell-Lewis

Guo Pei, born in 1967, was a child of the coarse cotton Mao suit Cultural Revolution days. Yet her grandmother fired her imagination with shared memories of extravagant Qing Empire fashions featuring delicately embroidered butterflies and peonies. The five-toed dragon, however, was exclusively reserved for the Emperor’s robes.

Each galley offers insight into whatever story, or place, caught the artist’s imagination at the time. An umbrella dress, intricate embroidery cascading down the brilliantly coloured train of a cloak fit for a potentate, and look closely for the wide-eyed animal faces etched in gold thread peeking out from the hip of a 50’s inspired day dress.

In the final analysis, Guo Pei says it best: “Fashion shouldn’t just be about the present. I care more about the meaning behind the details. Therefore, the embroidery and motifs you see on my clothing all have stories behind them.”

If you go: Vancouver Art Gallery is located at 750 Hornby St., Vancouver.

Stocking stuffer gift idea: A 2019 Membership to Vancouver Art Gallery. $58 (senior) $80 (senior couple).

Like many friends, this exhibit inspires repeat visits. Whether you are an artist, designer, writer or just a casual tourist you’ll find these whimsical collections amusing, informative, inspiring, memorable and entertaining. The exhibit will be on at the gallery until January 20.

Check other Lower Mainland galleries, too. They feature a wealth of ideas and information for all ages. And, remember, the Friends of the Museum and Archives Society have already paid your admission to the Museum of Surrey’s Dinosaurs Unearthed exhibit. You can support the Friends Society by becoming a member for $10 per year. Ask at the desk, or email me.

Ursula Maxwell-Lewis is a retired publisher, editor and a dedicated traveller. Contact her at utravel@shaw.ca.



editor@cloverdalereporter.com

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