7 FEBRUARY 2007
TURNER MEDAL LECTURE jointly with the Royal College of Art
Turner Lecture: The Only Thing Constant Is Change - A Life in Colour
and presentation of Turner Medal to Ms Zandra
Venue: Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, London
(this is next to the Roayl Albert Hall)
Start: 18.30 hrs, Granville Tea from 18.00 hrs
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The Colour Group of the Physical Society was founded in 1940 by a group of eminent scientists whose common interest was the subject of colour. During the first 20 years of its existence, a series of biennial lectures - the Thomas Young Oration - was established, and presented by some of the most respected colour scientists of the time, to include Ragnar Granit, David Wright, Walter Stiles and John Guild. In 1960 the merger of the Physical Society with the Institute of Physics prompted the formation of an independent organisation that was to become the Colour Group (Great Britain). In 1962 the honorary treasurer Robert Weale proposed establishing a biennial lecture which the committee agreed would be called the Newton Lecture, and which would be accompanied by the presentation of a prestigious silver medal, bearing Sir Isaac Newton’s profile, with each lecturer’s name inscribed on the on the obverse. The first Newton Lecture was presented by Professor David Wright at Imperial College London in April, 1963.
The participation of artists in the activities of the Colour Group was encouraged from the start. At the first meeting, at Regent Street Polytechnic in April, 1941, the artist Robert Wilson, director of the British Colour Council, was invited to contribute. The participation of artists in meetings, such as Zandra Rhodes and Sydney Harry at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in December, 1982, and the appointment of Audrey Mitchell as chairman (1985-87), increased to the point where the committee of 1996-97 agreed to establish an award for artists and designers, to complement the Newton Lecture for scientists and technologists, to be named in honour of the greatest of all British colourists. The first Turner Lecturer was Peter Sedgley, who spoke and presented a video about his kinetic artworks at the Royal College of Art on 13 May, 1998. Presentations by artist Albert Irvin (2000) and art historian Martin Kemp (2001) followed.
With assistance from Colour Group treasurer Patrick Forsyth, the Royal Academician Albert Irvin and the Academy’s librarian Nick Savage, the Board of the Royal Academy subsequently permitted a replica of its own Turner medal to be taken by the craftsman Leo Stevenson and struck by Charles Neal & Son of Friern Barnet, with the text ‘The grand ethereal bow shoots up immense, and every hue unfolds’ bordering Turner’s profile.
With her signature pink hair, theatrical make-up and art jewellery, Zandra Rhodes has stamped her identity on the international world of fashion for almost 40 years and was one of the new wave of British designers who put London at the forefront of international fashion in the late 1960’s and 1970's. She has designed for royalty and rock stars, including Diana, Princess of Wales and Freddie Mercury of British rock group Queen. She continues to design for the rich and famous around the world today.
Following postgraduate studies in textile design at the Royal College of Art, Zandra Rhodes set up a print studio and factory, with Alexander Macintyre, and sold original designs converted onto fabrics to Foale and Tuffin and Roger Nelson. She taught briefly in various art schools, and in 1966 formed a partnership with Sylvia Ayton, becoming probably the first textile designer to employ bold pop art prints in garments. A year later she and Sylvia opened the Fulham Road Clothes Shop, producing dresses with revolutionary prints in clothing by cutting around patterns to make shapes in ways that had not been used before. Printed textiles had for a long time been associated with home furnishings, and Zandra Rhodes was perhaps the first designer to allow bold textile patterns to influence the shapes of garments, revolutionising the use of printed chiffon in this way. In 1969 she sold to Fortnum & Mason in London and took her collection to the United States. Throughout the 1970s she continued to expand her business and reputation in Britain and America, where she was known for her annual Fantasy Shows, and as a prominent designer she also exploited the new, so-called ‘punk‘ fashions.
In 1975 she became managing director of Zandra Rhodes (UK) Ltd and Zandra Rhodes (Shops) Ltd, founded with Knight and Stirling, and subsequently opened concessions in Harrods in London, Bloomingdales in New York, Marshall Field in Chicago and Seibu in Tokyo. At the same time, intending to reach a wider public, she licensed her name in Britain, America, Australia and Japan and exhibited her special talent and flair in distinctive designs for wallpapers, furnishing fabrics and bed-linen, ties, shawls and scarves, hosiery, kitchen accessories and jewellery. In 1987 she launched Zandra Rhodes Saris (India) with ‘West Meets East’ shows of Saris and Shalwar Kamize in Bombay and Delhi, being the first Western designer to do this.
Drawing and colour has remained the hallmark of her creative activity. She continues to be inspired by the world around her. Her latest collection, shown at London Fashion Week in September 2006, was inspired by the colours and shapes of St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. In recent years her creative talents have extended to designing a range of china for Royal Doulton and costume and sets for Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute’ and Bizet’s ‘The Pearl-Fishers’. Currently she is working on Egyptian-inspired designs for Verdi’s ‘Aida’, for Houston Grand Opera and the English National Opera, to open later this year.
Zandra Rhodes remains a highly respected figure in the field of fashion and textiles. She is an Honorary Doctor of the Royal College of Art (1986), the Council for National Academic Awards (1987), and the University of Westminster (2000), to name but a few. She was voted Designer of the Year by English Fashion Trade UK in 1972 and Top UK Textile Designer by The Observer in 1990. She received the Hall of Fame Award from the British Fashion Council in 1995. In 1984 she received an Emmy Award for Best Costume Designs for ‘Romeo & Juliet on Ice’ (CBS TV).
Her designs are represented in numerous costume collections around the world, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Smithsonian Institution, the Royal Ontario Museum, and the National Museum of Victoria, Melbourne. Her designs have also been exhibited around the world culminating in a retrospective of her work in 2005 in the highly acclaimed exhibition “Zandra Rhodes: A Lifelong Love Affair with Textiles” at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London which she founded (and is incidentally a monument to colour by the architect Ricardo Legoretta). Dedicated to showing the work of British fashion and textile designers from the 1950s onwards the museum was opened by HRH Princess Michael of Kent in 2003.
Her publications include ‘The Art of Zandra Rhodes’ (1984 / 85) and 'Zandra Rhodes: A Lifelong Love Affair with Textiles' (2005) to accompany her retrospective.
She was made a Commander of the British Empire in 1997 by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of her contribution to fashion and textiles.
Last Updated 8 January 2007
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