Grass Peonie Bum
16 May - 1 July 2017
TJ Boulting is delighted to present the first solo show of photographic artist Maisie Cousins. ‘Grass, peonie, bum,’ is a result of several year’s work coming to a climax in an exploration of nature and sexuality, providing the audience with a break from reality and an overall sensory experience, with an installation created in collaboration with celebrity perfumer Azzi Glasser. Her approach to making images is hedonistic and performative as she explores topics such as sensuality, indulgence and body image. Maisie’s work comes from a desire to see femininity and sexuality in a positive and open way.
Exploring these topics with honesty and humour she hopes to create erotic and visceral work that not only challenges people but also asks them to get involved. The work presents a very real approach to femininity; bodies sweat through the image, appearing gruesome, yet seductive and repelling. With liquids glimmering on the surface enclosing the female flesh, spilling over pink flowers and vibrant fruits, we become immersed with the images, imprisoned into the body itself. Through the explicit use of macro imagery, grass, peonie, bum is juicy, sticky and highly visceral, enhancing the fluidity of sex and gender, Maisie’s work actively responds to destructive images aiming to address the damaging misogynistic ideals of beauty.
Having had a growing online presence with her work in the past few years, her first show in a physical space enhanced her desire to play with all the senses. The scale of Maisie’s work plays a vital part here, beginning with powerful and large prints which allude to a deeper view of the subject and allow the viewer to feel almost lost inside the impeccably detailed and crisp images. In contrast a tiny print shows ants groping the flesh of fruit just as nails grope to the flesh of the bum, rendering the softness, fragility and delicacy of our skin; this thin enclosing layer containing the body. Fingers and slugs press against the soft slimy skin of petals and flesh. Close ups let us interact with this mesmerising body of work, assuring an essential closeness, touch and tenacious depth, amplifying the true honesty of the female body. The sensuality brings to mind the work of Pipilotti Rist, whilst the large-scale female flesh the work of painter Jenny Saville. Nature and the body is real, the grotesque can also be beautiful and sexy.
The majority of images appear smothered in a glossy bodily liquid, like honey shines on a polished surface. The photograph represents the art of touch, but the female body lies in the images as an untouchable object. The show progresses from still photographs, leading you down into a highly immersive room, with walls the colour of bubble gum pink and a golden floor which glimmers light across the space; absorbing you into this rich, golden world of imagery and sweet scent. Initially the videos correspond as still images, but with a closer look they become alive, tentacles patter across petals, water droplets tantalisingly fall off the edge of the screen, and the reflective floor allows the images to descend beyond our body, infusing this other worldly atmosphere.
By collaborating with Azzi Glasser the work moves beyond the visual, where the sweet fixating scent of familiarity clings to your memory. Smell is deeply connected to the unconscious and divorced from representation. The sheer opulence and materiality of her visuals provoke all senses; soft touch, a sticky sound, divinely sweet, earthy scent, vivid textures and the vibrant fruits sit on the tip of the tongue.
grass, peonie, bum is wholesome and clean, dirty and grotesque, the work exchanges from the repulsive to attractive. As in nature you are allured by the glossy surfaces, textual images and sweet scented air, it beckons you in and holds you there whether you like it or not.