Helen Downie aka Unskilledworker is Gucci’s Favorite Female Artist.
Helen Downie aka Unskilledworker
Gucci’s Favorite Female Artist.
And she is so skilled!
Gucci’s favorite painter is a self-taught Instagram Star. “ Unskilled Worker” started painting at 48 and became internationally famous at the age of 50. She didn’t set out to become internationally famous, but her powerful paintings catapulted her to Instagram fame, then to fashion stardom. Fashion as identity is the driving force behind these magical images. The subjects are calm and expressionless, almost childlike but their adornments speak volumes about their lives. Composed formally but dressed idiosyncratically, they play on the power of style and the bravery of individuality.
If you are unfamiliar with Downie’s name, so you will recognise her work. She is already a big deal to a certain switched-on audience, then she is about to get even bigger. The new 40-piece collection brings together one of the fashion world’s favourite artists (her) and the most talked-about brand of the moment (Gucci). The two have quite a history. Gucci’s creative director, Alessandro Michele, discovered her on Instagram in 2015. Since then, she is painting his collections (one of her pieces hangs above his desk in his studio) and now her artwork will appear on Gucci’s signature dresses, bags, T-shirts, hoodies and skirts. It’s a canny move of the brand, which recently announced that 50% of its sales are made to Millennials. Unlike their Gen-X predecessors, this generation, puts experience and authenticity at the forefront of their decision-making process when making luxury purchases.
Downie is as authentic as it gets: success came late in life. There was no social-media campaign, no celebrity endorsements, no PR plan — just her paintings. “I never thought of it in terms of what looked good on Instagram, I just knew I wanted to paint.” Indeed, in a world of influencers desperate for likes, Downie’s is a particularly lovely story of how social media can be a driving force for creativity rather than just selfies. She spent her twenties and thirties “drifting about”, having her four children “at a very young age”, with an aggressive cancer to beat, giving up alcohol and drugs. After thinking about it “for a long time”, she finally picked up a paintbrush.
What is more, she describes her relationship with her art like falling in love. She says: “Now, if I’m not doing it, I want to be doing it.” In addition, she feels just as passionately about fashion. When she attended Michele’s first women’s-wear show for the brand, “It was an emotional experience. A level of creativity and perfection “.
“Many of the subjects focus around girls I worked with when I was 16,”she says. “They grew up in council estates around London and they were tough yet vulnerable. There is always a strong narrative about the characters and they are often not what they seem.”’
Downie’s work has a powerful magic that feels difficult to capture, let alone to control and express. Hers is the story of how we learn to glimmer and shine, even in strange circumstances. For self-taught artists, Downie cautions to keep your own perspective. “I stumbled into this; I didn’t have a plan, and age to me is irrelevant as most of our lives are lived outside of youth. Being young looks great from the outside but mine wasn’t so easy. Do it for yourself, and if people like it, then it’s a bonus.”
Unskilled Worker, Helen Downie, currently has 238,000 Instagram followers and is working on new paintings for future exhibition in South Korea, Hong Kong, and Shanghai in 2018.
Content : Elena Iliadou Curator : Eleanna Tabouri