Cast your mind’s eye back to last July and a runway of twisting tarmac in the south of France. Dressed in animal prints, oversized cardigans and crash helmets, Hedi Slimane’s revved-up Celine teens navigated hairpin-bends and home-straights to the sound of that summer’s TikTok anthem. This was a chequered-flag salute to a generation of kids who had used the hours of lockdown-induced boredom as an opportunity to forge new creative connections from the confines of their bedrooms.
Less conspicuous were the many collaborations that went into the collection, no fewer than six in total. These ranged from specially commissioned prints from artist Gregory Edwards, to graphic tees designed by US painter Amy Sillman and works of unbridled fantasy by Chicago-based artist and curator Tyson Reeder, that were transposed across a number of striking looks. It was Reeder’s 2019 painting Autobahn that initially caught Slimane’s attention, a paradisiacal composition of palm trees and shimmering ocean that became the focus of the artist’s contribution.
Now that Celine are releasing a capsule collection exclusively featuring all the collaborations from SS21, we took the opportunity to speak with Reeder about the project and visualising his work in wearable form.
Finn Blythe: How did your collaboration with Celine come about?
Tyson Reeder: Hedi [Slimane] and Celine responded to some of my recent work in exhibitions at CANADA gallery NYC and the Independent Art Fair, and CANADA director Chistiana Ine-Kimba Boyle reached out to see if I would be interested. It was a very unexpected gift in a tumultuous summer and I’m very grateful.
FB: What kinds of conversations did you have with Hedi?
TR: A lot of great ideas came about quickly from Celine, but surprisingly the ideas seemed to line up with things that were happening with my work over the summer – space flattening out, form and pattern announcing themselves more loudly without much perspectival space. The embroidered LED jacket, in particular, echoed a black and neon palette I started playing with in works from my fall solo show at the gallery.
FB: Had you ever worked on this kind of collaboration before?
TR: Not at this refined level of production with such beautiful materials. I made a t-shirt with United Bamboo in the mid-2000s and have done more absurdist attempts at art-damaged fashion – a short-lived sneaker collaboration with the artist Frankie Martin called Emotions in which people would send us their shoes and we would send them back dramatically altered, logos removed.
A more recent project was a collaborative ‘fashion collective’ with New York artists Brian Belott, Jamian Juliana-Villani, Billy Grant and Matthew Thurber that culminated in a make-shift runway show at the Serpentine Pavilion in London. Some of the looks consisted of graduation gowns covered in punk patches and jackets lined with security alarms that would ring out when unzipped. A t-shirt cannon filled with baby clothes was fired off at the end and one of the artists lit their hair on fire. We disbanded shortly after.
“The embroidered LED jacket in particular echoed a black and neon palette I started playing with in works from my fall solo show at the gallery.”
FB: What kinds of challenges did this Celine collaboration present?
TR: The early results of the project were so fun and varied that I surrendered pretty quickly to seeing where it would go. Since the paintings were already completed it was more seeing how the imagery was distilled – the two-color pink and green palm trees for example became simplified into floating lines on the jacket
FB: How did the fact your art would be worn on a human body influence the work?
TR: Since the project I’ve thought more about how much deep pictorial space can be wrapped around a body before it loses clarity. I’ve always liked that tradition in even the most kitsch winter snowscape Christmas sweaters or 70s hand-embroidered denim jackets with mountainscapes or stoned fantasy imagery, all contained within the contours of the figure. Some of this has been in my paintings for a long time – paintings-within-paintings depicted in airbrushed van art and more recently, youths in decrepit malls wearing leather jackets with lobsters on them.
“Since the project I’ve thought more about how much deep pictorial space can be wrapped around a body before it loses clarity.”
FB: Can you tell me more about your working process? With Autobahn for example, did you begin with a specific source material or is it all in your mind?
TR: I like to start with the most cave-man pencil scrawls, timeless divisions of space like a horizontal line and a circle become an armature that I can hang almost anything on. Landscape is really elastic in this way – a green blob becomes a bit of foliage in your eye if it is anchored by a horizon line. From there it’s a kind of mix of trusting my clunky hand to render certain things without a source and appropriating others from old magazines and books, scraps of fabric, and cannibalising my own past paintings and drawings.
FB: You’ve used pastel for the works featured in this Celine collection but you use a wide variety of mediums and application tools. Can you explain the selection process behind this and how you first discovered these innovative means of application?
TR: Early on when I first started exhibiting works on paper in New York I went through a frugal phase of getting all my materials from the local Walgreens and getting kind of hooked on what that limitation made me produce. So, fabric dye, puffy paint, glitter, nail polish, bleach, shoe polish and construction paper all informed my sense of colour and a kind of egalitarian use of ‘wrong’ techniques and methods.
FB: Do you have a favourite piece from the collection?
TR: The embroidered leather jacket with LED palm tree motifs blew my mind. To see the Miami pink and green neon that inspired my colour choices made into actual lit-up lights is exactly the kind of futuristic translation I would have never conceived of if this hadn’t happened. My other favourite piece is the windbreaker, I love the detail of the white zipper and loose fit and how readable the painting is, with the palm trees creeping around the sleeves.
Shop the collection here.