NOW Gallery

Ribbons Matty Bovan

Take a virtual tour of Ribbons below

NOW Gallery presents ‘RIBBONS’ by MATTY BOVAN, opening Wednesday 30 November 2022. A site-specific participatory installation, it presents an immersive exploration of the York-based designer’s textile-rich work, which is always underpinned by raw craft. The celebrated designer has been awarded this year’s NOW Gallery 2022 Fashion Commission, which gives fashion designers a remarkable opportunity to explore creativity beyond the garment and create their own world within the multi-faceted gallery expanse.

The ribbon as a symbol of the feminine is taken to a much larger scale than it’s traditional use as mere trimming, with amorphous forms in varying knitted constructions, from tight through to loose weave, creating a tough towering structure of poetic aggression that traverses the full cavernous depth and ceiling height of the gallery, entirely knitted from thousands and thousands of meters of ribbons, where Bovan has created his own world juxtaposing fantasy and reality.

The central knitted ribbon structure, suggestive of a piece of clothing, perhaps a sweater – could the separate tubular constructions be sleeves? – invites visitors to absorb the exhibition from its innards, where a series of 3 exclusive new films, each with its own narrative and characters all wearing custom Matty Bovan clothing, are collaged across 3 screens in varying sizes, loaded with saturated colour, illustrating light and dark. Bovan says: “I have layered and manipulated footage with colour and texture, which shift and meld into new forms constantly evolving, blending reality and fantasy, two worlds I constantly push and pull in and out of.”  Within this cocoon, he has created a custom rug, further enhancing the textural frequency of ‘RIBBONS’ and its violent colour and shine.”

Matty Bovan says: “Ribbons is my most personal project to date, a world built in my truest vision. The films in particular have been a labour of love. Shooting, art directing and working on the soundtracks has allowed me to fully realise and give flesh and bones to what I had set out to achieve.”  He continues: “I want people to be able to escape into the RIBBONS world, to be able to dream, and to want to create their own world, however abstract or literal they wish. My world is full of dreams and nightmares, much like real life, but i do overall believe this a positive world i have built.”

The exhibition also features a curved wall of large-scale Matty Bovan painted canvases, the first time such works have been shown in public, created to compliment this multi-faceted exihbition, exploring words and textures, creating visual poems across the gallery scape. He has also collaborated with master perfumers VYRAO to scent key installation elements to heighten the sensory aspect, opting for a layering of their ‘I Am Verdant’ (starting over), ‘Magnetic 79’ (magnetism), and ‘Georgette’ (self-love) fragrances, working closely with founder Yasmin Sewell on his selection.

He has also created exclusive merchandise to accompany the show, which includes screen-printed hoodies, a special sweatshirt featuring knitted ribbons, T-shirts, and totes, as well as a limited edition ‘RIBBONS’ book featuring exhibition imagery. His mother Plum Bovan has designed exclusive painted clay earrings and kilt pins to accompany it all.

Matty Bovan says: ‘I am so excited to show another side of my world with “RIBBONS,” a more intimate and special place. I’m ready to invite people into a multisensory world of epic scale. My grandma taught me to knit at age 11, and I have never looked back. Passing down skills and exciting people about craft is a central focus of my work. Ribbon is usually used as a trim or flourish in fashion and craft; here I am taking the idea of a small-scale, somewhat apologetic trim, and blowing it up with full brute force of energy and hardcore craft! There will also be a chance for people to get involved with interactive show elements, which illustrate the importance – and fun – of craft and making things yourself. It’s our future.’

NOW Gallery Curator, Jemima Burrill, says: ‘Watching his London Fashion Week presentation during Lockdown, Matty Bovan burnt a hole in my retina. The film he created was nothing like anything I had seen before. It struck a nerve and made fashion exciting again even at the bleakest hour. He had to be the next NOW Fashion Commission, whatever he came up with would rupture our space and 
make us think about clothes, life and who we are – in a different way.’


Based in York, North Yorkshire, Matty Bovan, 32, graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2015 with an MA specialising in Fashion Knitwear. His 12-look graduate collection opened the final show, exhibiting his cacophony of sculptural knits, textures and wild, handmade adornments, which earned him the L’Oréal Professionel Creative Award, closely followed by the LVMH Graduate Prize 2015, going on to work with Marc Jacobs and Miu Miu.

He has worked with various brands, including: British Airways, Coach NY, Gina, Miu Miu, Stephen Jones Millinery, Liberty London, and Barbie, and his work is worn by a loyal fan base, including Adwoa Aboah, Naomi Campbell, Björk, Rita Ora, Shirley Manson, Georgia May Jagger, Winnie Harlow, and Tilda Swinton.

In September 2022, he presented his Spring/Summer 2022 Collection with a show at Milan Fashion Week that was supported by Dolce&Gabbana. He regularly shows at London Fashion Week and has previously been supported by BFC NEWGEN, and at the outset, Fashion East.

He received the prestigious 2021 International Woolmark Prize, also scooping their Karl Lagerfeld Award for Innovation, with judge Carine Roitfeld commenting: ‘What impressed me about Matty is his capacity to win both awards – for his innovation and creativity – and I really think he deserves it. He is pure fashion, he makes me dream and he reminds me of a young Vivienne Westwood or a John Galliano, and we desperately need that sort of designer in the fashion world today.’

He recently launched a book at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, encompassing the resulting imagery from his 2021 exhibition within their Bothy Gallery entitled Matty Bovan: Boomerang, which questioned the construction of identity, authorship and ideas of personal ‘brand’ in the age of social media. He has previously collaborated with artists Rory Mullen and Adam Leach to create a fully immersive installation comprising video projections, live performance and sculpture, within the Leeds room at the London Design Biennale at Somerset House. Entitled ‘Just/Unjust’, it was inspired by a carved wooden chimney piece depicting the ‘Dance of Death’ in The Red Drawing Room at Burton Agnes Hall, an Elizabethan Manor House near his home and studio in Yorkshire.

This September he was also made a Professor at Leeds Beckett University.

Matty Bovan Studio is dedicated to a sustainable ethos employing a tight network of British manufacturers and local craftspeople. Yarns hand-dyed in-house in small batches, ensure minimal water use, then farmed out locally to knitters in York, who finally return them to the studio to be hand-painted. In-house knitting is a combination of domestic knitting machine using the punchcard technique, and hand-crochet, with no electricity used in the process.

The virtual tour of Ribbons
was created by the Net Gallery.
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