Walking into Wilton’s Music Hall, the first thing we see is a man with two taxidermy foxes attached to his shoulders at an impossible angle.
The occasion is an exhibition of illustrator Dan Hillier’s latest collection, Feather and Claw.
But rather then displaying at a white walled gallery with ‘free wine and chatter, I’d rather have a party’, says Hillier who asked his followers to come in ‘Victorian disguise.’
And my did they make an effort; head to toe in Victoriana with feathered embellishments or whole animals stuck on. Some people had seemingly gone for more of a baroque masquerade look and there was an undertone of fetishism.
Essentially guests had made themselves the living embodiment of Hillier’s work and willingly conspired to create a scene which Hillier describes as ‘a slightly mental version of the inside of my head’.
The gin soaked proceedings are fuelled by Hendrick’s Gin which was more of a client then a benign sponsor.
Although this complete set of twelve pieces is an independent Hillier exhibition, it follows a series of six pieces commissioned by Hendrick’s Gin to be used simultaneously as cards and limited edition prints (available from here).
These take a men in masks theme which Hillier has expanded, creating six accompanying women in masks.
‘It’s a darker more engaging and more surreal’ route, says Hillier, who recognises the work is a departure from earlier series which juxtapose people and animals more directly.
Feather and Claw ‘fills the page and shows hidden sides to people’s nature and new ways to find connections,’ says Hillier.
Working from ‘intuition’ rather then with any ‘intellectual’ goal the images are composed through collage and by working on a collection of six pieces at once ideas are traded between pictures in development.
Asked if he’d launch in such a grandiose way again, he says ‘Yes, maybe more so.’ Baths of rose petals in crumbling decadent music halls and are clearly too conservative.