LOCKDOWN SERIES

During these turbulent, unsettling times, we want to share a glimmer of beauty to break up the fear and anxiety. Each week we will be highlighting new artworks from emerging artists and share their thoughts and inspirations during this time. This week we are showcasing the work of Fine Artist, Mary-Ann Stuart.

ONLINE EXHIBITION

'Chastity' by Mary-Ann Stuart

2020
21cm x 29.7cm
Digital Collage

"My obsession with mixing images of the Virgin with images of the female nude started in Cyprus in 2018. I was drawn to the shelves in tourist shops, where little mass-produced idols of the Madonna were being sold right next to ones of Aphrodite. I was interested in what this said about what we expect of women. We want them to be beautiful, but we also want them to be mothers and virgins, and we don't want anyone else to touch them. If they do, then they aren't worth anything. I guess that's the difference between pornography and the nude in art."

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'For Men Only' by Mary-Ann Stuart

2020
21cm x 29.7cm
Digital Collage

"A lot of my practice is to show comparisons of the male gaze within art and pornography. I often find that classic nude paintings, such as the Birth of Venus or Modigliani's reclining nudes, have been made for male consumption of the female body, and are perhaps on the same level as pornography. At least with pornography, they allow women to have orifices and a functioning body, in art history they tend to be dehumanised idols made of porcelain."

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'Rigevidon' by Mary-Ann Stuart

2020
21cm x 29.7cm
Rigevidon information leaflet, backed onto card

"This piece is a response to my experience with the pill, menstrual cycles and PMS. I've struggled with PMS and severe menstrual cramps since my cycle started and have been on several medications to curb the pain. Eventually, I started using the pill to regulate my cycle and 2 doses of Mefenamic Acid three times a day during my menstruation. Although this made my life easier dealing with cramps, I feel angry at my body every time so think of the fact that I have to do this and resent being born a woman. Although the medication stopped me having cramps, I still suffer from PMS, which adds to the frustrations of how my body functions and affects both my mental and physical health. I get angry with my body and frustrated with the half of the population who don’t have to deal with anything like this."

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'£1' by Mary-Ann Stuart

2019
59.5cm x 84cm
Oil Paint on Board

"With this triptych, I wanted to expose the dangers of pornography. I see a lot of conversations now about the liberating aspects of pornography but rarely do I see arguments on the flip side. I am not against pornography, but I do think that, especially in the mainstream, is prone to being a very dangerous environment, and a lot of the time audiences aren't fully aware of what they're watching, and a lot of people aren't aware of the extent of what is out there and what is available. All of these slogans were taken from mainstream websites that are watched on a daily basis."

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'35p' by Mary-Ann Stuart

2019
59.5cm x 84cm
Oil Paint on Board

"With this triptych, I wanted to expose the dangers of pornography. I see a lot of conversations now about the liberating aspects of pornography but rarely do I see arguments on the flip side. I am not against pornography, but I do think that, especially in the mainstream, is prone to being a very dangerous environment, and a lot of the time audiences aren't fully aware of what they're watching, and a lot of people aren't aware of the extent of what is out there and what is available. All of these slogans were taken from mainstream websites that are watched on a daily basis."

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'Two Day Free Trial' by Mary-Ann Stuart

2019
59.5cm x 84cm
Oil Paint on Board

"With this triptych, I wanted to expose the dangers of pornography. I see a lot of conversations now about the liberating aspects of pornography but rarely do I see arguments on the flip side. I am not against pornography, but I do think that, especially in the mainstream, is prone to being a very dangerous environment, and a lot of the time audiences aren't fully aware of what they're watching, and a lot of people aren't aware of the extent of what is out there and what is available. All of these slogans were taken from mainstream websites that are watched on a daily basis."

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Untitled Silhouette Piece by Mary-Ann Stuart

2019
20.5cm x 15.5cm
Paper Collage on Primed Wood

"One of the first pieces I made mixing Christian artwork of the Virgin with pornography and the female nude. My intent isn't to cause offence, just to ask questions about why we have these specific values of womanhood and femininity, and why we struggle to accept women who cannot be defined by the categories of Virgin, Mother or Whore."

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INTERVIEW

WHERE ARE YOU FROM?

I live on the border between London and Kent and always have, so my regional identity is pretty split between those two places.

WHAT IS YOUR ARTISTIC BACKGROUND?

I did my foundation diploma at UCA Rochester and continued to do a Fine Art degree at the Canterbury campus. I never really thought of doing anything else, art has always been my ‘thing,’ all the way through from nursery.

WHAT IS/ARE YOUR FAVOURITE MEDIUMS?

I mainly use oil paints and collage. I also always dabbled in digital art, and since being out of university (and not having the studio space for storing pieces) have been making a lot more pieces this way. I do like the digital stuff, but I much prefer making physical work; I find it’s a lot more personal, and I feel a lot more satisfied when I’ve made something I can hold and feel all the textures of. Making art is a very sensual experience, so the digital pieces don’t satisfy that part of it as much. Saying that, however, there’s a lot of possibilities with making things digitally that you can’t do physically, and when I use digital pieces in an exhibition it’s exciting to see them come to life, and then they become a part of something bigger. Preferably though, I like to get my hands dirty. Oil painting is a very soothing experience, I love all the smells and feeling how the paint moves, and I never know exactly how something will end up looking. It’s the same with collage, you can imagine how certain shapes and images will go together, but it’s never quite how you picture it. A lot of it is done by accident, almost like it’s telling you how it wants to be.

WHO/WHAT WOULD YOU SAY YOUR KEY INFLUENCES/INSPIRATIONS ARE?

I know it’s pretty cliché, but Tracey Emin is a huge inspiration for me. She has this ability to pour out so many raw emotions into her art that I rarely see in other artists. Hannah Höch, Francis Bacon, Marianna Simnett, Rachel Maclean, Guerrilla Girls and Titus Kaphar are some names which come to mind when I think about my influences, both in terms of ideology and aesthetic. Titus Kaphar is an excellent artist, I discovered him in third year when I started making my collages based on old nude paintings. I was interested to see him using pretty much the same idea but with colonial art - He is one of the artists I turn to when I worry my art is wandering dangerously close to pastiche.

DO YOU HAVE ANY MUSICAL INFLUENCES THAT INSPIRE YOUR WORK? OR ANY PARTICULAR ARTISTS/SONGS YOU LIKE TO LISTEN TO WHILE WORKING?

At the moment, I’ve been listening to an album called Birthmarks by Hilary Woods - it’s incredibly haunting and ethereal and is all about her relationship with her body as she goes through pregnancy. Last year I was obsessed with Blood Bitch by Jenny Hval. I find it helps if I listen to music that’s about the same things I make art about, it kind of feels like I’m having a conversation and keeps me focused on what I think is important in my art.

WE'RE GOING THROUGH A PRETTY UNSETTLING TIME RIGHT NOW, HOW ARE YOU DOING?

I’m doing good! I’ve had a couple down days and dealing with PMS during this whole thing has been an interesting experience to say the least. I was away from January, and was meant to come home April 30th but, obviously, had to come home earlier. That was weird as I had to be isolated in my room for 2 weeks so as not to put my family at risk, I had some rough days during that. I’ve been working on something every day, and every now and then I come up with something that I feel proud of enough to show people. I think it’s important to keep your brain active and creative right now, not just for artists but for everyone, it stops you going completely mad.

Check out this playlist by Mary-Ann to hear what she's listening to right now.

I’m doing good! I’ve had a couple down days and dealing with PMS during this whole thing has been an interesting experience to say the least. I was away from January, and was meant to come home April 30th but, obviously, had to come home earlier. That was weird as I had to be isolated in my room for 2 weeks so as not to put my family at risk, I had some rough days during that. I’ve been working on something every day, and every now and then I come up with something that I feel proud of enough to show people. I think it’s important to keep your brain active and creative right now, not just for artists but for everyone, it stops you going completely mad.

HOW IS THE LOCKDOWN AFFECTING YOU CREATIVELY?

Honestly, I don’t find that I’m any more or less creative than usual. I was feeling pressured at the start to be doing nothing else other than making art as it seemed that that’s what everyone else was doing, but if I tried to force it, I’d just end up getting frustrated at myself for not creating a masterpiece. But now, other than not going to work and not seeing my friends or my boyfriend, I’m pretty much carrying on as usual.

WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH WITH THIS TIME?

I’m not setting myself any major goals, as when I’ve done this in the past it’s mostly led to disappointment that I’ve not been able to stick to them (I’m always a bit too ambitious and set goals that are near impossible). In terms of my art, I just hope to come out with a body of work that I’m proud of, and maybe able to put an exhibition together with at the end.

AND DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR STAYING CREATIVE DURING QUARANTINE?

Eating healthily is important, junk food is nice every now and then, but it makes you feel crap after a while. Also, make something every day, even if it’s really small or really stupid, just keep exercising your creative mind - it’s amazing how quickly creativity can go stale.

To see more of Mary-Ann's work, visit her artist's page or check out our online shop

SHOP

'Botticelli’s the Virgin & Child with St. John & Angel' by Mary-Ann Stuart

£20

'Rubber'
by Mary-Ann Stuart

£78

Untitled Collage (1)
by Mary-Ann Stuart

£16 - £55

'Ambiguous Flesh Mound #1' by Mary-Ann Stuart

£46

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exhibition

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exhibition

See next
exhibition

See previous
exhibition