The Artist Supported by the Legacy of Alexander McQueen

Artwork by Judas CompanionCourtesy of the Sarabande Foundation

Jasmin Reif – also known as Judas Companion – is currently an artist in residence at Sarabande, the charitable foundation established by the late designer

“The world needs fantasy, not reality,” said the late fashion designer Lee Alexander McQueen. After his sudden death in 2010, it was difficult to see how the work of such a visionary – who indeed provided a unique kind of escapism – would, or could, continue. Sarah Burton, who took the helm of the Alexander McQueen brand just months after his passing, sensitively and intelligently ensured that it lived on, through designs that have never failed to celebrate his unrivaled legacy of exquisite craftsmanship and a disquieting, preternatural aesthetic. 

But there are also other initiatives that uphold McQueen’s memory, such as Sarabande, the charitable foundation established by McQueen in 2007. Named after his S/S07 collection, the trust was set up to provide scholarships and studio spaces to artists and designers studying at a graduate and postgraduate level, alongside offering subsidised studio spaces to those who have already left academia.

Today, one such artist working there is Jasmin Reif – also known as Judas Companion – her practice spanning across sculpture, textiles, performance and photography. Earlier this year, Reif was commissioned by Dutch Vodka company Ketel One, founded by the Nolet Family in 1691, to produce work in response to its Amsterdam-based distillery, that would then go on display at Sarabande later that year. This week also sees the opening of the foundation’s group show, including new work by Judas Companion. Here, the artist tells us about the pieces she produced for Ketel One, and her plans for the future. As the Sarabande website states: “McQueen passionately believed that creative minds with the potential to push boundaries should be given the same opportunities he’d enjoyed” – and Reif is the perfect example of this. 

On her studio space at Sarabande...
“I’m a fine artist and I make masks. I use all sorts of materials, but mainly wool. I put the masks on my face and then photograph myself in them. I studied at the Kunstakademie, Dusseldorf in Germany, where I am from, and then I did my postgraduate degree at Central Saint Martins. I graduated four years ago and have been with the Sarabande Foundation since October last year and it has really been life changing. My old studio was in my house and I had absolutely no space to store things. I always had to make work on a smaller scale, too, but having a studio at Sarabande has changed the way I work – I became aware that a studio space is very necessary.”

On the influence of Alexander McQueen...
“McQueen has been an influence on my work for pretty much my whole life. When I was little, my mum sewed her clothes herself so she would always have fashion magazines lying around with his work in it. When I go home to visit my parents, I still have an image on my bedroom wall from one of his collections that is very inspiring to me. I do see a lot of similarities between our work; there is a darkness and slightly grotesque and unsettling element to both of our practices.”

On her commission for Ketel One...
“We were invited by Ketel One to visit Amsterdam at the beginning of February this year. Ketel One had partnered with Sarabande for this project based on a shared passion for the traditions of true craftsmanship, cultural heritage and a community-led ethos. We spent almost the whole day walking through and looking at the procedures of making vodka in the company’s distillery. What interested me was the material they were using in the process, distilling the liquid in copper cups. Then I found out that the whole company works with sustainable initiatives – and that’s what I do in my own work, finding and source my own recycled materials. So decided that I would make a metal mask for the first time. At first, it was really challenging, because I’m used to working with textiles. It was a struggle at the beginning because I had never welded or anything like it! I didn’t know how to cut it and then how to bend it and all sorts of things. It was all new to me. But it worked out in the end and Ketel One liked it a lot.”

On Sarabande’s group show... 
“For this show, I am presenting entirely new work. There will be photographs and drawings and a few sculptures. I’ll be showing with photographer Sam Rock, Harriet Horton, a taxidermist, and Joshua Beaty, who’s an artist working between art and fashion – he graduated only recently. There will also be paintings by Michaela Yearwood-Dan and Mircea Teleaga, and pieces from Georgia Lucas-Going. I have a further three shows coming up this year, too. The first show is opening in Germany at the beginning of September, in a space called Storage Capacity, and then I’m part of a film screening in September. Finally, I have another show in Monaco at beginning of October, running till the end of November. I’m so busy at the moment! But that can only be a good thing.”

Sarabande Group Show runs until September 4, 2018.

Read Next
In PicturesDecades of Photographing Women Below the Surface of Chinese Society
Culture TalksA Hyperreal Look at Everyday Life Inside North Korea
In Pictures“It’s Right Up My Street”: Martin Parr on Tbilisi’s Contradictions
In PicturesPhotographs Documenting the Darker Side of Hollywood’s Golden Age