A provocative photoshoot at ArtÓ art gallery in Stow-on-the-Wold showcasing Bowen Dryden wedding dresses is challenging traditional perceptions of the bride. Brides Beyond Boundaries brings together a partnership of creative talents to set bold yet intricately made haute couture gowns against a backdrop of striking contemporary art in a series of scenarios that rip up the rulebook of how we expect brides to behave.
Conceived by ArtÓ gallery owner Antony Finn in collaboration with White Canvas bridal boutique owner Lee Griffin, the photoshoot is radically reframing the narrative around the role of the bride. Deliberately captured on camera as an individual, the project presents the bride as emancipated in self-expression, able to convey lived experience and personal desires in defiance of outmoded tropes that pigeon-hole brides within rigid confines.
ArtÓ gallery is already renowned for playing with juxtaposition and its inability not to question preconceived views. The unique space is home to a stimulating array of opposing artistic styles including carbon fibre sculptures by Alastair Gibson, photorealistic watercolours by Nur Ilham, prints by figurative painter Chris Guest and original bronzes by explorative artist Jenny Nijenhuis. All art displayed at ArtÓ is ‘owned not loaned’, supporting artists financially upfront so they can continue their practice.
The gallery’s ethos is a natural marriage of minds with White Canvas bridal boutique, a blast of fresh air in the Cotswolds pitched at fashion-forward brides. The intimate oasis, situated just metres away from ArtÓ in Stow-on-the-Wold’s Brewery Yard, is a treasure trove of pieces carefully curated by passionate owner Lee Griffin. The exquisite Bowen Dryden dresses chosen for the photoshoot epitomise White Canvas’ emphasis on craftsmanship and originality.
Four distinct dresses were selected for the photoshoot and brought to life by the skills of vibrant model and emerging artist Emily Elton, effortlessly skilled Leanne Lishman of Cotswold Wedding Hair & Makeup and veteran brand and wedding photographer Nikki Kirk of Carlé and Moss with the ArtÓ team providing creative direction. Each member of the team brought a sense of playfulness and dedication but above all open-mindedness to the project resulting in an effervescent atmosphere.
ArtÓ is not your average art gallery. Alongside the broad range of contemporary artworks (and intriguing collectibles and memorabilia displayed in the ever-evolving ‘cabinet of curiosities’), the setting is an unapologetic mash up of Nordic minimalism, statement design (such as a Steuart Padwick desk) and bold interiors. Visitors to the gallery are routinely charmed and surprised by the full-size orange phone box, Banksy and Christian Lacroix wallpapers and eye-catching neons. ArtÓ is the very antithesis of formulaic.
Brides Beyond Boundaries makes full use of the potential of the gallery environment, contrasting the captivating Bowen Dryden with artworks and accessories to underline the fundamental belief that brides should not be constrained by unconscious bias or societal norms. The project inverts assumptions entirely by baring overt and raw emotion, illustrating stereotype-defying vocations and demonstrating a total refusal to conform to the conventions that place brides within a gilded cage.
“The photoshoot is the culmination of a vision of art meeting fashion and both being augmented by the paring,” explains Antony Finn. “Everything clashed on paper but shone in practice. Brides Beyond Boundaries grew from the seeds of several ideas, a visit to the gallery from a bride-to-be and unashamed Star Wars nerd, an inspiring conversation with Lee Griffin that set my brain fizzing and Ana de Armas’ portrayal of Paloma in No Time To Die acting as proof you must never underestimate someone simply for wearing a dress.”
“Being able to throw tradition out of the window for a no holds barred photoshoot was an exciting prospect and an extension of our alternative approach at White Canvas,” says Lee Griffin. “The gown is an intrinsic part of the bride and we always aim to ensure personality – whatever that is – is reflected in the dress. The Bowen Dryden dresses chosen for Brides Beyond Boundaries are all so individual to reflect that core ethos.”
The ArtÓ team sourced high end accessories and props to compliment the gowns. The photoshoot features a Boucheron white gold and diamond Ava round ring, Mr A x Bamford London watch, Laines London slippers, H. Upmann Añejados cigar, France Trench Art WWI lighter, Veuve Clicquot champagne, Murano glass champagne flute, Gucci sunglasses, Moscot glasses, Agent Provocateur underwear, Christian Louboutin and Candice Cooper footwear, Walther PPK 007 replica pistol, Hasbro ‘The Black Series’ Obi-Wan light sabre and Darth Vader helmet and BeauFort London Coeur De Noir candle, an extension of the enigmatic fragrance.
“It was paramount that Brides Beyond Boundaries took delight in the small details as well as the wider aesthetic,” enthuses Antony Finn. “Every product in the photoshoot was a conscious choice, brought into play due to the quality, artistry and brand history. They also provided a visual stimulus to deepen the conversation on gender roles and definitions of femininity, started by the Bowen Dryden dresses and artworks, bringing in cultural associations to help focus the lens.”
The Brides Beyond Boundaries photoshoot also tells a story of teamwork and mutual support behind the scenes. After gallery owner Antony Finn had successfully evangelised the innovative concept and gained artistic investment from wider experts, a crack force came together to apply their skills with understated yet impactful confidence. In the face of tight deadlines and overcoming last minute setbacks, the team worked with natural synergy, respect, enthusiasm and at times irresistible laughter.
Bowen Dryden dresses featured:
1. Kiss From A Rose
2. Forget Me Not
3. Flowers In The Mist
4. Blush Fizz
ArtÓ artworks featured:
1. Carbon Waves, carbon fibre wall relief – Alastair Gibson
2. Carbon Humboldt, limited edition carbon fibre sculpture – Alastair Gibson
3. God Save The Africa Queen, carbon fibre, bismuth, titanium, PEEK and rare F1 parts
sculpture – Alastair Gibson
4. Grapes From The Moon, limited edition carbon fibre sculpture – Alastair Gibson
5. Zeta Puppis, limited edition print – Alastair Gibson
6. Racing Piranha, limited edition print – Alastair Gibson
7. Baby Piranhas, limited edition carbon fibre sculptures – Alastair Gibson
8. Taylor, original watercolour – Nur Ilham
9. Bond, original watercolour – Nur Ilham
10. Camden Lock, original acrylic on canvas – Colin Brown
11. Coffee With A View, original acrylic on canvas – Colin Brown
12. Like a Girl, limited edition cast bronze – Jenny Nijenhuis
13. Théâtrophone, limited edition poster – Jules Chéret
14. Body Of Lines, original acrylic on canvas – Suki Nabarro
15. A Girl’s Best Friend, original acrylic on canvas – Suki Nabarro
16. Pink (Neon) City, hand embellished print – Candy Canvas – Just Jane
17. Frida, embellished print – Rock Salt Prints
18. Kate, embellished print – Rock Salt Prints
19. Audrey Bubblegum, embellished print – Rock Salt Prints
20. Diversity, original acrylic on board – Silvia O’Neill
21. Falling Sparrow, limited edition hand embellished print – Todd White
22. Star Wars Reimagined, lithographic prints – Law & Co
23. 1993 Jigsaw Mannequin, aluminium and steel sculpture – Nigel Coates
24. Sugar Skull, open edition print – Chris Guest
25. Extreme Is On, hardback book – Chris Guest
• ArtÓ @artostow – Set, artworks and props
• Antony Finn and Emma Bovill, ArtÓ @artostow – Creative direction and project
• Lee Griffin, White Canvas @whitecanvas.uk – Bowen Dryden wedding dresses
• Emily Elton @emily.elton.art – Model
• Leanne Lishman, Cotswolds Wedding Hair & Makeup @cotswoldweddinghairandmakeup –
Hair and makeup
• Nikki Kirk, Carlé & Moss @carleandmoss – Photography and creative refinement
• Emma Bovill, SaltBaked @besaltbaked – Comms & PR
With thanks to:
• Bowen Dryden @bowendryden – Wedding dresses
• Bamford Wellness Spa @daylesfordfarm – Manicure
• Allium florist @alliumflorist_ – Bridal bouquets
• Beetroot boutique @beetrootstow – Christian Louboutin boots
• Stow Opticians @stowopticians – Moscot glasses