Botany_2018_oil_on_canvas_180_x_150

Mia Wilkinson

Work / Art

Mia Wilkinson’s unapologetic nudes are a study of how women are sexualised on and offline

From Marlene Dumas, to Jeff Koons or even Titian, the line between what constitutes art and what is porn has been much debated over the centuries and rarely has a simple answer. With their voluptuous, fleshy figures and expressive brush strokes, Mia Wilkinson’s depictions of the female form are an exploration of this malleable line, using her joyous, powerful and sometimes grotesque portrayals of the female body as a method of challenging male objectification and reconfiguring the gaze. “I love the female form because it’s an interesting shape, it doesn’t all look the same. There are so many different bodies out there,” she says.

Mia’s obsession with the nude started at art school where she would voraciously paint every nude she could get her hands on. “I really wanted to paint the body and I know it’s pretty stereotypical but I painted of all the porn and fetishes I could find,” she tells us. “It was a free and easy way to see the body, and the angles and shapes created in screenshots are really interesting.”

However, the resistance she got from her tutors intrigued her. Whereas male painters focusing on nudes were deemed to be carrying on a classical tradition, her work was called attention-seeking and trendy. The double standard affecting her as a female artist reflected the objectification of women in painting and the culture more generally. She was clearly hitting a nerve and decided it was fruitful territory to explore.

Her latest series, which will be exhibited at exhibition This is Not Porn opening at Public Gallery on 3 July, explores the worlds of two communities, female bodybuilders and the SSBBW (super-sized big, beautiful woman) porn scene. "I’ve always been interested in that aspect of the body – using your body, changing it,” says Mia.”It’s an incessant thing that women do in particular. I was interested in looking at extreme body types, from big bums and breasts to female bodybuilders,” she says. “It’s much more prominent now, our obsession with fitness, sexualised fitness. It’s almost pornographic.”

Studying these two communities online, Mia found that there were a lot of parallels, largely because of the strength of the male gaze and the monetisation of desire. “On the outside, they are completely different body types, one is really hard and ripped and the other is excessively soft with big folds of skin,” Mia says. “But the squasher had the same sort of website as the bodybuilder, and instead of men paying to watch her working out, the man would pay to watch her eat or sit on people.”

Mia’s paintings, which she tends to complete in a day, are painted wet on wet with a loaded paintbrush. The title of the show This is Not Porn is both purposely provocative, challenging us to define where we think the line is, but also a statement of Mia’s own reckoning. “This is not porn, nothing sexual is happening, it’s your mind,” she says. “Nobody is performing sexual acts, it’s just women’s bodies, and your gaze is identifying that as porn.”

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Mia Wilkinson

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