Yes, memento mori is a recurring theme at McQueen and an aesthetic really of interest to me. I signed up to a fantastic art history and theory course in the winter at the Royal Academy called The Vogue of Vanitas and Mortality – we had ten different artists/art world experts come for discussions on memento mori and vanitas. One week, we had Claire Wilcox, who was the curator of Savage Beauty, come to dissect the work of McQueen, his oscillation between life and death, happiness and sadness, good and evil. We spoke about skulls in particular and how the presence of skulls in popular culture has softened its impact as a symbol. Like Warhol’s repeated pop prints of skulls and the reoccurring skull motif in many of Basquiat’s paintings, it’s the repetition that makes it much more palatable. The most obvious example of this being in the huge sales of the McQueen skull scarf, which appeals to all demographics!
This conversation inspired me as I have always avoided using skulls in my work as they are already so heavily loaded with symbolism. My challenge is to always promote the lightness and beauty of bones and try to reassess the macabre association we have with them. But now, I’m working with skulls for the first time, using the idea of repetition, creating a series of wall-based sculptures made up of half skulls entwined with my little bone flowers that are in a long repeated pattern.