As a self-confessed “detail freak”, UK sculptor and artist Liam Brandon Murray makes his garments as intricate as cityscapes, full of layered depth – and his goal is to get the art world to recognise costume and fashion as fine art.
At the 2016 WOW Awards, his pieces Lord Maharaja & Star Bride were runner-up in the Wearable Technology Award and placed second in the Costume & Film section. He describes them both as “eccentric to the hilt”, exploring a future world where humans have learned they’re not only of alien origin but have comes to terms with it, embracing their star heritage.
WOW, he says, is “the greatest show on Earth”. “I’ve never seen anything else like it.”
It’s safe to say the world hasn’t seen much like Liam Brandon Murray’s pieces, either. He has formulated a unique style of art for himself – fashion-ready wearable fine art, including high heels, dresses, hats, coats, and even a wedding dress, stuffed full of religious iconography, circus, and steampunk influences.
To make his pieces, he uses a mix of different formulas in what he calls “a cauldron” – liquid foam for stretch, latex, stretchy fibres, and stretchy paints, among other things. Once it’s on the fabric, he injects the back so it seals and becomes watertight. Amazingly, on the precipice of being machine washable, and he’s even made a swimsuit.
Murray sculpts many of the elements he adds to his garments, and for others, he uses found objects. Many of them exhibit religious iconography; as a small boy, he wanted to be a religious artist, but forgot about that as he grew older. “But it seems to have come out somewhere,” he says.
He also includes hidden meanings in his pieces, designed to reward close study.
“If you look carefully [at the WOW works] you’ll see Jesus on a crucifix and two cherub angels wearing astronaut helmets, suggesting that Jesus may have been an alien; he wasn’t of this realm. It’s a bit like Leonardo da Vinci including hidden meanings in his work.”
A rich purple smoking jacket, with lapel and shoulder details, is a favourite of Los Angeles R&B artist TQ.
“He said ‘I’ve never seen anything else like it. I want one’,” Murray says of the day TQ came with his entourage to check out the work.
“With the smoking jacket, I’ve found that if you put them with a pair of jeans and white vest and went to the right place, it will work brilliantly.”
Now the rapper wants his second garment.
Murray says he intends his pieces to stand in a gallery, at home alongside a traditional marble sculpture or oil painting.
“It’s my goal to get the art world to accept that as a piece of fine art,” he says. “It’s just as good, if not more so, than a standing sculpture. This thing has to work, it has to move. [Costume and fashion designers] deserve more credit in the art world, I think.”
Liam’s vision is that all modern forms of art will soon become the old, and the old forms of art will become new. He intends to bring back the Old Masters’ style to the art world and has chosen fabric as one of his main canvases.
For his WOW pieces, his inspiration came from people telling him he shouldn’t make them; that to add too much detail would ruin them.
Other artists and every single person he encountered, saying “Stop. Don’t go over the top.” Murray ignored them.
“I didn’t like being told that, so I actually worked out a way of putting a tremendous amount of detail in something and getting it to work, to flow, and to work symmetrically.
“I try to go above and beyond whatever else I’ve seen out there.”
Photos provided by Liam Brandon Murray and World of WearableArt™