Pleasure as resistance: RTiiiKA makes queer condoms for gender-free genitals
The Bristol-based artist discusses her unconventional route into the art world, the comfort she finds in road signs, and her recent acquisition of a scissor lift licence.
- Elfie Thomas
- 20 April 2022
“Have you ever desired a condom to fit your big clit? Or for your gender-free genitals?” These were the kind of questions buzzing around the room in RTiiiKA’s recent Between the Lines exhibition where she handed out a selection of queer condoms she created to accompany the works on display. Exploring the themes of queer sexuality, auto-erotic and group pleasure through her simple yet expressive line paintings, she hoped to spark conversations about “the many ways to enjoy sex outside of the hetero (or even homo) norm”.
Through works composed of simple lines and limited, two or three toned colour palettes, RTiiiKA has mastered the art of saying a lot with very little. “I’m interested in art that can translate an idea using very simple methods,” she tells It’s Nice That. Insinuating abstract genderless figures through thrifty brushstrokes, she aims to make art that removes gender binary or “makes it playfully ambiguous”.
In terms of her creative journey, RTiiiKA’s has been anything but linear. By the time she picked up a paintbrush at 25 she’d already tried her hand at website design, drag, a stint in puppetry and had formed a band before she finally settled into a “groove that felt right, somewhere between art, design and community-based practice”. Being a self-taught artist, she admits that she often has a “niggling feeling that I don't know the ‘right way’ to do things”. She continues, “But I think that’s quite common”. One way of getting around the sporadic loneliness which comes with being self-taught and starting up your practice from scratch is by joining DIY creative groups, making collective work, and skill sharing, the artist tells us.
Through these collective ventures RTiiiKA has dived into the world of art upon many a creative avenue. Her work spans illustration, painting, street art, community-based work and design. She’s a big believer in the potential of mural art as a way of “bypassing gatekeeping institutions” and drawing people together through collective creation. So, in 2019, she founded a Bristol-based group for creatives to come together and make street art murals, enjoying the “confidence and safety” of working collectively.
RTiiiKA’s personal work has also made its way onto the streets of Bristol. As part of her Between the Lines exhibition she made a zine called What Road Signs Teach Us. Created during a time when she was feeling “very lost, scared and in love”, the artist found comfort in the messages on road signage. Giving the instantly familiar “Give Way” sign new significance and reinterpreting a road gradient sign with the message “up goes down as well”, the artist transformed these thoughtful illustrations into huge bus stop prints, and installed them across the city, providing “a little subvertising adbreaks” for passersby.
With big ambitions to make more of her gender-free condoms, spreading the word that pleasure can be a “form of resistance”, we’re excited to see what RTiiiKA turns her multi-talented hands to next. We also advise Bristolians to keep an eye firmly on this space – RTiiiKA’s just got her scissor lift licence and is planning to scale some big buildings with her art in the future.
RTiiiKA: Queer Condoms - Gender-free Genitals (Copyright © RTiiiKA, 2022)
About the Author
Elfie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in November 2021 after finishing an art history degree at Sussex University. She is particularly interested in creative projects which shed light on histories that have been traditionally overlooked or misrepresented.