Girls, Uninterrupted at Creative Debuts
Pictured above: 'My Pussy My Choice' by Sophie Rose Brampton
Recently, whilst perusing my personal archives, I discovered an 'article' I had written as part of an assignment for my English A level. It was entitled 'Pop Star or Porn Star?', and after laying heavily into Rihanna's choice of clothing using the most flowery and superfluous language I could muster, it concluded that women in the music industry ought to "regain some dignity and cover up."
Six years on, I read this agape. I'm astounded that these opinions have been committed to paper with such blind fervour, and ashamed that my name is on the piece. Whilst I'm not saying that music industry isn’t fraught with patriarchal issues, the tone of the piece is unduly scathing. Its scrutiny foreshadows comments made by middle-aged busy-bodies on Facebook; ones that suggest cat-calling is a compliment and ask what victims of sexual assault were wearing. The piece is judgemental, un-sisterly, and frankly un-feminist. It is the product of a culture that incites victim-blaming.
Because half a decade on, fourth-wave feminism is sticking two fingers up to the idea that women should be shamed for their clothing choices. In a recent interview with Broadly, actress Rose McGowan stated that "if I fucking want to wear nothing it's my goddamn choice." And is not a woman's choice at the very heart of feminism? It says 'no' to Heat magazine, slut-shaming and the male gaze; it says 'yes' to female empowerment through personal decisions.
Embracing this concept with both paint-stained hands is Florence Given, the young artist behind the freshly unveiled London exhibition 'Girls, uninterrupted'. Impressively juggling the artistic appetites of her 20.4k Instagram following alongside her undergraduate studies at the London College of Fashion, 19-year-old Given is determined to give women a space to celebrate themselves.
It appears this determination is mirrored by those clamouring to see what the exhibition has to offer. As I arrive before the modestly-sized venue in time for the private view, I am met with eager crowds snaking down to the end of the street, all the way around the corner. There must be hundreds of people in total, and the majority is women. The wait is long, but worth it.
A smorgasbord of styles and mediums, each artist featured in 'Girls, Uninterrupted' brings something different to the table. Be it the soft photographic portraiture of Rosie Foster, or Venus Libido's hilarious illustrations featuring a woman pouring 'No Fucks' from a salt-shaker into her stove-simmering meal, the exhibition explores female sexuality and a woman's place in society in pertinent and contemporary ways. Jasmin Sehra's fusion of consumerism and bold typography is particularly striking, where she has drawn inspiration from her South Asian roots to render 'The real spice girl' alongside elements of hip hop culture. Special mention must also go to Lucy Jermyn's 'Fuck Trump' piece, which depicts women literally shitting on Donald Trump, and is the perfect opener to the exhibition upon setting foot in the door.
Given herself is effervescent with energy, her own collection of empowering hand-drawn, digitally-coloured illustrations attracting exhibition-goers like moths to a flame.
"This is a passion," she tells me, and I can see she means it. "I love art by women, because it doesn't objectify women. Look at that picture of those tits over on the wall there," [she points] "You wouldn't think 'Oh that's taken by a man'. It's taken by a woman, and the woman was not looking at [the subject] in a way that was sexualising her."
Discussing the process of curating an IRL exhibition when Instagram is such a dominating and practical force, Given describes the joy of interacting with fans who tell her that the featured work has really resonated with them. 'Girls, uninterrupted' does what it says on the tin: Given is able to avoid the censorship of Instagram and physically showcase her artistic selection without interference or condemnation.
"Women's nipples are just nipples, and they actually have a purpose: to breastfeed our children!” she says. “Men's don't have a purpose -- so why are ours so forbidden?"
Supporting this notion is Sophie Rose Brampton, a digital artist whose vibrant, playful work can also be found at the Creative Debuts venue. "Most of my work these past two years has been focusing on my anger toward slut-shaming, and how the clothes a woman wears or a woman's naked body by itself does not automatically qualify her as a slut," says Brampton. "It has mainly been a journey of loving my own body and a form of sexual empowerment through it."
Time and time again, we bear witness to the results of systemic sexism: the actions of Weinstein, Trump and Murdoch are just the tip of the misogynistic iceberg in a world pervaded by prejudice. Women’s bodies are constantly being placed at the centre of controversy; yet, crucially, their agency is removed. They have been abused, objectified and vilified. 'Girls, uninterrupted' is just one troop in the army of women fighting the battle which says ‘no more’. It's an exhibition armed with humour, defiance and independence, in a space where women are reclaiming their bodies, their power and their place in the art world in 2018.
Girls, uninterrupted is running at Creative Debuts in Hoxton, London until 15 January. Find out more here.