The PUBLIC Gallery has just announced Mia Wilkinson’s first solo show at the gallery: ‘THIS IS NOT PORN’. It will exhibit a selection of Mia’s recent works (2016-18) exploring the depiction of the female nude in our media-obsessed age.
Mia Wilkinson, a London-based artist, has long been associated with feminist art practices, especially due to her engagement with the feminist collective Sweet ‘Art. Her oil paintings radically engage with, and disrupt, the sexualised construction of the female typos.
The title of the show leaves no doubt as to which challenges the works exhibited expose to the art space and the bigger world out there. The label ‘art’ has often allowed (quasi?)pornographic depictions to gain access to the general public in a direct, unbiased and indiscriminately way. The majority of the times, it was the female body the subject (or, rather, object) of this kind of representations. Wilkinson tries to defy the seemingly logic connection between the nude, or naked, as Kenneth Clark would have it, and the objectified female body. The bodies she depicts look at once extremely natural and realistic, and crudely disorienting.
The heroines she paints in thick and dense oil impastos are not the classicising Goddesses of antiquity, nor the prostitutes and courtesans of the Impressionism. Wilkinsons transforms these womanly stereotypes into masculine characters, substituting veneered women and concubines into female wrestlers, bodybuilders and SSBBW (Super-Sized Big, Beautiful Woman) models. The vulgarised and bulky identities assumed by Mia’s women are aggrandised and matched by the excessive, dripping paint applied on the surface of the canvases.
By putting under pressure the normalised vision of the woman, the artist brings to light the masculine, sexualised enforcement of the female identity. Of particular interest to the artist is the effect of the media saturation we are experiencing these days. In the paintings presented by PUBLIC Gallery, Wilkinson studies the effect of our online lives on the fashioning of our identities and their social outpouring. Nothing in Mia’s oeuvres looks ‘naturally feminine’ (if that even means anything). The colours used are bright and vibrant. The contours are bold and stark. The bodies are adipose and sweaty. The ‘women’ are ‘men’.
In the humorous orgy of paint impasto, colour, and subject matter the social critique is not lost. The seemingly light hearted and witty approach that the artist maintains, in fact, simply renders the politics of sex and gender she delves into more readily accessible. Furthermore, while the contemporary art world is more and more saturated with ideas close to the abstract, minimal, and/or conceptual movements, Mia’s depictions find their strength in their hyper-figurative character. Her unapologetic figures do not end up in a furious vortex of expressionists-like angst. Rather, they bring to the fore a social critique under the guise of a comic masquerade where anything means everything. Porn or not, naked or nude, male or female, skinny stereotyped models or BBW ones.
‘Accidental properties created by applying wet on wet, prove just as important to my work; dripping from the nipples and nails and mouth and feet, that go in and out of the women enable a feeling of sensuality sprinkled with disgust’
THIS IS NOT PORN, Mia Wilkinson – 3rd July – 4th August (Private View: Monday 9th July, 7 – 11 pm)
PUBLIC Gallery 17 Amhurst Terrace, E8 2BT
Read about more exhibitions HERE