Thursday, 14 June 2012

Danson House, Home of the Beautiful

Hello friends, I have a quick post for you as I am currently sorting the last bits and pieces of Stunner 2.0.  Really soon, I promise...

I was idly flicking through the Museums Journal and found a brief piece on this beautiful dress, on display at Danson House in Bexleyheath...

This gorgeous dress was created by the artist Tom Gallant in collaboration with the fashion designer Marios Schwab.  Look at the shadow cast by the dress and you'll understand why the dress ended up in Bexleyheath.  The artist has underlain the black laser-cut dress with a printed silk crepe slip, printed with a William Morris-inspired design.  What makes it astonishing is that the components of the design are images from pornographic magazines, turned from obscene to delicate as they add blushes of skin tone beneath that ink-black gothic pattern.  It's so complex and beautiful and has echoes in Morris' textiles and wallpaper.

The gallery loved the piece so much they asked Gallant to curate an exhibition revealing his inspirations.  He chose The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman as the lynch pin of the exhibition, a favourite book of mine, which has added resonance in the mansion-like Danson House.

Iris (2012) Tom Gallant

Another exhibition on at Danson House is Ligia Bouton's Adventures of William Morris Man, an installation showing a designer superhero fighting the excesses of Victorian taste.

Adventures of William Morris Man (2012) Ligia Bouton
I love seeing Victorian culture treated in such a modern, easy way, despite the familiar and cosy image we seem to have of it nowadays.  I love the idea of Topsy, garbed up like Iron Man fighting his aesthetic battle.  It's a fresh approach and looks again at how controversial and avant garde these designers and artists were to their contemporaries.

The Yellow Wallpaper exhibition runs until 29 October, so if you find yourself up in the big smoke for the Tate's Pre-Raphaelite extravaganza (I'm almost too excited), make the journey up to Bexleyheath and call in on Topsy and some extraordinary goings on with wallpaper...


  1. This is amazing - I lived in Bexleyheath from childhood until a few years ago, and often visited Danson Park. I often wondered about the "mansion" - who had built it etc. When I was a child, it was mainly closed apart from a tiny section which sold icecreams and another section which was used strangely as a post office. Then later it was completely closed up. I assumed the council was pulling the old trick of letting it fall to bits and then demolishing it. It's therefore nice to find out that it has obviously been restored and is now being used for exhibitions. It is hard to believe but true that I lived in Bexleyheath all those years but had never heard of William Morris or the Red House! It's very possible that the owner of the mansion (a railway entrepreneur called Mr Bean!) might have entertained his near neighbour. Mr Bean was responsible for bringing the railway (and hence suburbia) to what had been a wild open heath surrounded by a few isolated villages. Anyway, thanks for bringing back the childhood memories!

  2. You're more than welcome, thanks for sharing your memories! It's definitely on my list to visit when I'm up in the big smoke next :)

  3. I have just come back to Australia after visiting UK (where I grew up) and had a very enjoyable visit to Danson House. I too have similar memories to woofwoof above so it was wonderful to see the house in all its glory. I loved Dress 09 and the Iris wallpaper and was fascinated to read your details on how the dress was made (I had no idea about the pornography when I was looking at the dress)!! :)


Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx