Female Matters

The good people at Polyester Zine know how to throw a party. For the launch of the magazine there was a one-night nail bar, DJs, and sangria that was unlike any I have ever tasted (though not in a bad way).

Their latest exhibition-come-knees-up Female Matters was co-curated by Polyester Zine and womenswear designer Clio Peppiatt in aid of the Dahlia Project, which supports survivors of Female Genital Mutilation.

The exhibition could have been a very heavy, dark affair, considering the project it was raising money for, but the curators took a tongue-in-cheek and joyous approach to the subject of female sexual liberation in the 21st Century.

Pop feminism and grrrl power was much in evidence. The first work of art I saw when I walked through the door was my stitchin' sister Hannah Hill, wearing a crop top she had embroidered with her own fair hand. It featured one of her most popular Ghoul Guides designs, "Donut Touch Me".

This was unfortunately very appropriate as Hannah experienced some street harassment on the night. The embroidery shows her resilience and wicked sense of humour in the face of sexism.





Hannah was one of 20+ artists who exhibited customised knickers at Female Matters. Every pair was for sale. Hung on a washing line for all to see, the messages ranged from "No woman gets an orgasm from shining the kitchen floor" to "Pussy Power", which was featured on several pairs of knickers. Hannah's knickers proclaim that "My body is mine", a statement many of us could benefit from being reminded of, living as we do in a patriarchal consumer society where sex sells and our bodies and ourselves are never enough.

Photograph by Hanecdote









Hannah was also featured in a simply stunning photo series by the phenomenally talented Scarlett Shaney about the social media gaze and how we present our image to the world. Hannah is an utter femme fatale in the series, which is appropriate as Scarlett has an on-going series called Cinema Stills, riffing on Cindy Sherman's Untitled Film Stills.

Photograph by Hanecdote
Ceramics featured heavily at Female Matters. These pondering women, comfortable inhabiting their own bodies (but not sexualised) by playful ceramicist Charlotte Mei, really appealed to me. If I had the cash, I might have bought the pair.


But my very favourite pieces of the night were also perhaps the least subtle. They reminded me of many varied references; Gustav Klimt, icon paintings, landscapes.

These bead and paint works by Melissa Eakin lavishly depict the female body as a shrine to worship at. Menstrual blood becomes a seam of rubies; the pearl clitoris reminds me of the Carol Ann Duffy poem Anne Hathaway:

The bed we loved in was a spinning world
of forests, castles, torchlight, clifftops, seas
where he would dive for pearls.


The woman's body becomes the archetypal woman's body; every skin tone is daubed on to one body, and the scale becomes as cinematic as the Grand Canyon.





More ceramics by Georgia Grace Gibson initially reminded me of Grayson Perry, with their scrawled writing and collaged images.

However, on closer inspection it became apparent that Georgia was doing something very different, and difficult. One pot was daubed with the obscenities and teasing of the girls' toilets at school and battered and borrowed text books. The second pot was an undeniably filthy and foul-mouthed diary of a gobby teenage girl who has thrust herself with gusto into sexual experimentation.

These uncomfortable examples of the young girl's gaze which is often swept under the carpet are contrasted with the third pot, in which naked, nubile young women contort into grotesque parodies of lesbianism exclusively for the male gaze.



















Female Matters was absolutely packed, and rightly so. I was so impressed that such talented and varied artists were brought together and curated so beautifully for just one night. I met a number of people in "mutual" follows on social media, and everyone was so friendly, chatty, and creating fascinating work in different remits and mediums. Here's to the next Polyester Zine event!