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From Fashion to Art: 'Normcore' at the Tate Britain

17/06/2014 14:59 BST | Updated 16/08/2014 10:59 BST

Fashion is still buzzing with the idea of 'Normcore' - a trend cemented by Kim Kardashian's appearance on the cover of Vogue. Suddenly the emphasis has shifted from supermodel to reality star; chiffon to denim; effort to effortless.

The trend only took off this season, on the way to Paris Fashion Week from New York. But in art, normcore has been around for nearly 100 years, since Marcel Duchamp unveiled 'The Fountain'. After all, what could be more ordinary than the common urinal?

Normcore in both art and fashion is a leveller. It preaches collectivity; the idea is to fit in, not stand out. As a fashion trend, it's the kind of whitewashed utopian uniform which could easily belong in the pages of science fiction - where individuality is a mark of dangerous dissent.

So, if normcore is haute couture's socialist little sister, then found objects and ready-mades are the same to fine art. Artworks by the likes of Leonardo da Vinci and J.M. W. Turner can alienate their audience in a quest for divine beauty. But when artists use ordinary objects, they offer us all something to identify with.

Phyllida Barlow's work for the Tate Commission is made up of seven towering monuments. Each is epic and eccentric, dwarfing visitors. Yet the sculptures spark familiar feelings as we catch glimmers of recognizable objects; bin bags, brown paper and polystyrene. These are remnants of the world outside the gallery and their presence makes us comfortable.

Unlike fashion, normcore in art has history: Man Ray used an everyday iron to make 'Cadeau' and Tony Cragg assembled 'Stack' from pieces of wood and discarded magazines. But today, is normcore as 'on trend' in art as it is in fashion?

Accessible art is on the rise and recently Tate Britain has worked hard to appeal to a wider audience. Alongside its Late at Tate evenings - where you listen to dance music surrounded by an odd mix of students, beer and renaissance paintings - Barlow's commission can be seen in a new light. Her sculptures are immersive, easy viewing.

Barlow casts aside art world snobbery, taunting those who label accessible art as "pedestrian" - suitable only for the uneducated man in the street. Most of Barlow's materials are taken literally from the street; a method she has used throughout her career.

This sustainable ethos leaks into the ideas of emerging artists. In this crowd, found objects are popular because they're cheap. British sculptor, Katie Surridge collects fragments from her travels to create mesmerizing structures. Turning cattle feeders into chandeliers, her work transforms everyday debris into fairy tale props.

Brazilian artist, Andre Komatsu also toys with our perceptions of ordinary objects. Tipped for global success, he has a fondness for breezeblocks and cardboard boxes - yet his aesthetics are almost minimalist in comparison to the unruly mess of Barlow and Surridge.

Sarah Lucas is another example of how contemporary artists keep ordinary objects relevant. In her 2012 show, 'Ordinary Things', she used an old mattress from a Berlin junk shop and some tights her partner found in the shed. Tights are recurring motif in her work, returning for her exhibition at The Whitechapel Gallery last year. They are a symbol of woman's mundane routine but Lucas reinvents them into grotesque visions of contorted flesh.

The world is a giant junkyard. With so much stuff surrounding us, it was only a matter of time before artists began using objects from life to comment on life itself. Although ordinary materials may be less appealing to collectors, they're popular with galleries and museums - entertaining the crowds.

Novel and accessible, found objects in art twist our perceptions of the things we thought we knew best. These background objects make up the fabric of our very existence. By giving them centre stage, we see the world as the extraordinary place it really is. It may be easier to spot creative effort in a medium like hyper-realistic painting but an artist must be truly open minded to see intrigue in the everyday urban dregs.