Molly Stephenson is a Melbourne-based artists whose depictions of the female form are sensual and powerful. We talked to her about her inspirations, her process, and dream projects. Molly’s works can be found on Instagram at @mollyrose.art
You’re studying Drawing at VCA – has drawing always been your main form of artistic expression?
Yes! Drawing has predominantly been the main medium I work with as of late, however I think why I’ve chosen this form of expression as my favourite might be perhaps because I’ve drawn since I was at least 5 years old! I have memories of drawing hours on end as a kid; it’s something I feel extremely comfortable doing and is a very therapeutic process.
Do you find that being based in Melbourne influences your work?
The people I’ve met in Melbourne have definitely influenced my work, I think since we live in such a multicultural country, we are able to embrace our background and celebrate particular characteristics about people, whether that be skin colour, bodily features, the way people laugh…I guess you gain an appreciation for the dissimilarity and distinction between people which I think is really beautiful- hopefully in the future individualism will be more apparent and celebrated in Australia
Your works are beautiful, fluid compositions that explore the female form. Some of these are reminiscent of Matisse – what have your main influences been?
Caroline Walls, Matisse, Picasso, Christiane Spangsberg and Brett Whiteley are currently my main influencers. My close group of friends have also played a significant role- I think maybe because I’ve seen them in their natural state, performing their day to day routine. I gained a sense of awe and respect for how they can be so effortlessly comfortable and sincere in their own skin. Smothered top to toe in makeup and fake tan or not, I realised that although this is all good and jolly, there are so many cripplingly insecure women out there who need to stop seeking validation from people (whether that be from men or from their circle of friends), in order to feel like they are contributing to society. There is no insincere outcome of catering to someone else’s visual desires- your physical state only gets you so far. You may as well focus on the type of personality traits you possess and accept your dumpling-like dimples all over your thighs because at the end of the day, the way your “thunder thighs” clap together isn’t going to cause anyone to go bloody blind, you may as well laugh it off and put a smile on your face. The sincere people in your life won’t care.
The way you present the female form is sensual and portrays a deep sense of power through this sensuality, what are your aims behind these depictions?
Thank-you! Women are drenched in distorted, unachievable, saturated images left, right and centre: these images, might I add, are also voyeuristically examined by men and women (something we are all aware of). In my opinion, to sexualise the body is a drilled in subconscious choice, where people are almost programmed to immediately devalue someone for exposing their raw state and associate nudity with having a lack of respect for ones self. My body of work definitely embodies a feminist approach; I’m intrigued, (and to be frank, disturbed and unsettled), by how the stereotypes of womanhood continue to entrap, restrict and suppress women in the patriarchal society in which we live in and how mistreatment still trickles into the 21st century today (and most importantly, how it can be overcome). I want my oeuvre to echo how gender biases, the influence of media, as well as how the sexualisation of women needs be eradicated.
I want women of all ages to feel like they are allowed to express themselves physically and emotionally (erotically or not- it shouldn’t matter!), without being ridiculed by those around them. Embracing your sensuality is something to be proud of- not reluctant of.
Acrylic, resin, copper, fimo, and markers have all been used in your art practice – what are your favourite mediums to use, and why?
At the moment I’m actually really enjoying experimenting with pastels, oil paint and wax. Pastels achieve such a creamy texture and when used to draw, create a somewhat child like quality. I’m interested in experimenting with ink as well. Oil paint and wax on the other hand, creates this beautifully lustrous, rich surface that I find really aids in representing the female form (it’s really strengthened my love for painting actually). The sheen it produces emphasises a sense of light and dark, exposing the curves of the female body in a way that praises the irregular silhouette, applauds imperfections and embraces how warped the female anatomy is and can be just by the texture of the paint! Markers and fine liner are classic mediums I always go back to because they are like the roots of drawing for me. They’re super easy to use, and help you create both minimalist and maximalist works simply by the thickness and stroke of the marker/fine liner.
Do you find your artistic process varies with which medium you are using?
I find that my development process alters dependent on what I am trying to depict, however usually when I create pieces, its an instinctive or reactive response, where I’ve either had an experience that’s triggered an idea, or its something that intuitively just happens out of the blue. I’m finding when I am wishing to create a more realistic piece I gravitate to using pencil, yet when I wish to create something more abstract, I like to use charcoal, which works well as a medium because it is coarse and loose; it really aids in creating a sense of erratic-ness, disorientation and honesty, rather than something you can anticipate to see because of the natural roughness/dryness of the charcoal stick.
What has your favourite project been?
I think the works that I value most are the pieces that have some degree of sting in them, a confronting piece. A few years ago, I created a tampon sculpture and I think the novelty of seeing conservative, pompous people freak out over a bodily function was hilarious and that was enough to satisfy me! Menstruation shouldn’t be sexualised, nor make someone feel uneasy…and if it does, you need to go get yourself some new friends! Or just hang around decent people.
Looking to the future – what would a dream project be?
I think a dream project for me would be to collaborate with fashion designers or product designers to promote female equality- I think that would be really rewarding and empowering- I also like the idea of seeing my compositions printed onto fabric, or solely becoming an independent artistic/designer or director. Becoming a tattoo artist is also a lingering interest that I have that I may be interested in undertaking in the future…