Polly Nor is an actual Instagram phenomenon. Possibly one of social media’s most re-posted illustrators — and with good reason — her bold work explores women, their demons and the dark and twisted realms of womanhood, expectations for females and the impacts this has on our mental health. There is a devilish charm about her work which spans everything from masturbation, messy bedrooms and marvellously real depictions of what goes on in the mind’s of an Internet-driven 21st century girl. We caught up with Polly ahead of her new exhibition “Airing My Dirty Laundry In Public” at Protein Studios this Thursday to discuss the powerful in the personal, her new 39 part illustration series and a special immersive installation of hers that exhibition goers are set to bravely experience.
Where does the title for your latest exhibition come from. Is it a nod to how vulnerable you could be seen to make yourself through sharing really powerful (perhaps personal) work?
On one level that’s what the title is about, I’m often discussing issues in my work that I wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable talking about publicly, I personally find it much easier to explore difficult subjects through my art. But the title also works on both a literal and figurative level, which hopefully will become clearer when you see the installation room at the exhibition!
What key themes are you aiming to look at with this exhibition? What was most important for you to explore?
The exhibition features a 39 part illustrative series, a continuation from a series of 9 illustrations that I uploaded to instagram back in March that started with You Don’t Know Him Like I Do in which a woman jumps off a cliff into the sea after a sea worm/devil creature much to the disapproval of her best friend. I feel like I can easily relate to the infatuated girl falling for the wrong sea creature, but I also know what it’s like being the friend in that situation trying to pull my friends away from trouble. In this series I use a very surreal narrative to focus on an all too familiar relationship pattern that I have noticed in many relationships around me. The story explores how destructive toxic relationships can be and how isolating they are not just for those on the inside but for loved ones looking in from the outside.
My new installation room Laundry, Repairs and Alterations discusses the ever-increasing pressure that our beauty industry, media and social media puts on women to alter ourselves to fit society’s beauty ideals. I feel like this constant strive for perfection is something that has been ingrained in to most young women I know. We are constantly fed the idea that changing parts of ourselves and ‘fixing’ our ‘flaws’ will make us into a happier person. I wanted to create a world that plays on that idea.
What do you want those who see the exhibition to experience or come away with?
I’m very used to sharing my work online, this is my first time that I’ll be showing a large body of work that’s never been seen before. I hope people can follow the narrative of my 39 part series and connect with it in the same way they have with my previous individual illustrations. The last exhibition had a mixture of cuteness and creepiness where as this one is just much darker and weirder so i’m interested in seeing how people react to it.
What sparks the beginning of a piece? What makes you think — I need to draw this?
My ideas just normally come to me when I put pencil to paper, I very rarely plan a piece in advance, I tend to draw in a way that some people might write down a train of thought in their diary, it just comes naturally. But I also take a lot of notes in my phone. I write down my dreams, snippets of conversations, random thoughts, sentences in books that stand out to me. Sometimes when i’m going through a drawing block I read back through my notes and that will spark an idea.
Can you tell us how the poster piece for the exhibition came about?
This piece is a development from my most well-known illustration called CBA To Pretend which I drew about four years ago now. In this image the devil sits on a couch shedding her human skin, smoking a fag, drinking a beer. I imagine the character having peeled off the human skin, removing herself from the pressures and expectations of the outside world. For me this image captures the exhaustion of keeping up appearances in today’s social climate. Since that first image I’ve kept revisiting this concept and have explored the idea through illustration and animation then last year I began bringing my illustrations to life by making life-size liquid latex skins for my installation piece ‘Shedding Skins’. In my new show ‘Airing My Dirty Laundry In Public’ I’ll be developing the concept further in my immersive installation room called ‘Laundry, Repairs And Alterations.’
‘Airing My Dirty Laundry In Public’ runs from the 11th to 17th of October 2018 at Protein Galleries, East London.