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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 27 October 2018
ART 20 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 27 OCTOBER 2018 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM How Vicky Kanellopoulos is aiming to promote positive body image through her art When it comes to her art, the Greek Australian likes to add a touch of humour. Currently in Melbourne on a whirlwind trip from Norway, we caught up with the artist to talk about the deeper meaning ANASTASIA TSIRTSAKIS B Artist Vicky Kanellopoulos. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED ody image is a hot topic. With the rise of social media and people's engagement with the medium, questions are increasingly arising surrounding the use of filters and apps to remove blemishes, the natural comparison that takes place – the ultimate thief of joy as they say - and its impact on our perception of ourselves. Those familiar with the artist's work will know of her interest in the human body, which was taken to new heights when she was introduced to casting while completing her Bachelor of Fine Arts at RMIT. "You can cast someone's body part and when it comes out it's an exact replica of the skin texture and that kind of texture is really hard to replicate with your hand if you were to look at someone and try and draw their skin texture, so I was really drawn to that," she explains. This theme has continued in her latest art project, albeit on a particularly intimate level, titled the Vulva Revival. There's no denying that women's nether regions, the vulva in particular, is a rather taboo topic – after all, people rarely even refer to the vulva with the correct term, instead opting for vagina. But once Vicky set out researching the topic, she was shocked to find the reason for this runs deeper than we may realise. "In Latin the term for vulva 'pudenda', actually means 'one ought to feel shame' or 'a shameful part of something'. I was quite shocked," says Vicky. "I thought that's probably why we subconsciously think this is something we're not supposed to talk about and we call it everything but vulva. I even found that in art in ancient times it's completely smoothed out! So I'm interested in that linguistically and the history behind that and why, while the penis is fine and it's out there." As part of her research she Previous examples of Vicky’s work presenting body parts on wheels. came across British artist, Jamie McCartney's The Great Vagina Wall, which was created in a bid to draw attention to the increasing number of women doing labiaplasty to change the aesthetics, which according to data gathered by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, is the fastest growing cosmetic procedure in the world. Meanwhile, with the continued rise in and demand for online pornography hasn't helped, often presenting a skewed and incorrect view to both young men and women of not only sex, but the female body which can be altered using Photoshop, unbeknown to the viewer. "I thought isn't it interesting that they're doing labia surgery because they think their vulva's not normal? What is normal? With social media now and taking selfies, you want to be perfect, but who says perfect is good? To be imperfect to me is perfect." To help show women, and men, how different and 'normal' we are in our own natural way, she has set out to do so by combining her love of casting and jewellery making. It will entail the artist casting 20 women's vulvas from which she will make 20 brooches in gold, sterling silver and resin. The process takes place in a studio on a massage table, and is an experience Vicky describes not dissimilar to getting a Brazilian wax, but without the pain. "You apply the silicon and it just peels off, so there's no pain. It's just that you have to sit there for about 20 minutes because I back it up with plasvter so I've got something to hold the silicon," she explains. Vicky is known for adding a touch of humour to her work, and likes it to be interactive, admitting that one of her particular interests is the viewer's physical interaction with her pieces when they are confronted with the nonsensical and the absurd. This work is no different. "I like my work to be interactive for the audience, not just to sit on the plinth," she says. "So my idea is that I see the body as a vehicle, and I thought 'okay, maybe I'll put these vulvas on wheels. Then I thought maybe I can turn the broaches into racing cars and display them on a vulva racing track," she laughs. "The whole idea is for the audience to pick them up and roll them down the track and have fun with them.” This approach, she admits, is also a way to try and bring men into the conversation. "They also need to be aware of women's bodies, and that they are not like porn star actresses," she explains. As French artist Henri Matisse once said: "Creativity takes courage" and that's something that Vicky has in spades, evident through her life's trajectory, which has no less been full of adventure. A qualified ESL teacher, the Greek Australian lived in Asia for over a decade, teaching in remote villages in Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore. But in her early 30s she came to find herself at a crossroads. Having broken up with her boyfriend, and flirting with the idea of a career change, she found herself back home in Melbourne living with mum and dad – an experience that would take her back to her childhood in more ways than one. "I thought 'Jesus what do I do now with myself?' I had a bit of a mid life crisis," she laughs. "And I remember my best friend said 'why don't you just do a jewellery course? Remember you used to make jewellery when you were young?'" Before long she was enrolled at the Box Hill Institute, and the rest, as they say, is history. While it was unexpected, the experience was one she looks upon fondly, opening her up to another community, another world; just what she was looking for, without really knowing it at the time. Just 10 months ago, the artist embarked on a new adventure on the other side of the globe, having relocated to Norway for love, and as a result is pursuing her work in an international setting. Her latest project acknowledges this change, by looking to cast 10 women from Melbourne and 10 from Oslo – two cities that have played a big role in her life thus far. So far she has cast five women in Oslo and is now trying to reach out to people locally to have their vulva cast, and is looking for a broad range of women, including older ladies. She admits it hasn't been the easiest process, given the intimacy, but she says people quickly overcome that. "Especially because they don't know me," she empathises, "but like the girls in Oslo said 'once we spoke to you for a few minutes we were really relaxed'. At first they were really nervous, but then I had all of them in the same room and they were all checking out each other's vulvas and they realised 'oh we really are different, and it's really normal'," she says. "You're not supposed to have it all tucked in and nice. Some labias come out some don't, it's entirely normal. And it was interesting talking to these ladies because they thought 'well mine's not like this or like that' and that really made me think this is something that needs to be brought out there. "With this project is I don't want to just attract jewellery appreciators. I want to bring in a wider audience, people who appreciate art, who are interested in social change." Vicky will be in Melbourne until mid-November. Those interested in volunteering for Vulva Revival can express their interest via email at email@example.com Examples of the finished product of Vicky’s latest project Vulva Revival.
20 October 2018
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