ART & THE DIARY OF A BODY: Interview with Erotic Artist Fuschia Ayling
(Interviewer: Lindsay Hosmer, A& Editor for SPACES)
Fuschia Ayling is an artist living and studying in the pinnacle of art and culture that is London, England. She grew up in Cornwall, and from an early age, experienced the renowned art scene in St. Ives, where her father owned a gallery and studio. Exploring her passion for expressive art, Fuschia uses a copier/scanner to create shocking, erotic, and feminine images that press the subject/viewer boundary. Largely exploring the self, Fuschia describes her body of work as an ever-growing personal memoir or diary. Her work reminds us that art, at its heart, is always self expressive.
Fuschia has done work for the author KD Grace, she has been featured in Belle Jar Magazine, exhibited at “Sh! Women’s Erotic Emporium,” Portobello, as well as a solo show at Sh!’s Hoxton store. Two years in a row at the Erotic Awards, she has been nominated for Erotic Artist of the year, both in 2012 and 2013.
Lindsay: I know from your interview with KD Grace that you grew up in the Cornish art scene, and that your father owned a gallery and studio… do you think you would still be an artist if he’d done something different?
Fuschia: I admire my father greatly. His paintings, although stylistically very different to my own themes and ways of working, speak to me with their tones and compositions, the inclusion of figures, fruits and forms. I believe that my urge to create is something that is intrinsic to the way I process emotions and desires in my personal life… and that has been true from the very start. However, I also know that having art materials and an atmosphere that encouraged self-expression played a key part in cementing my childhood interest as a valid occupation and at times an all-encompassing, almost compulsive drive. Making a mark which is visible, which wordlessly describes something that is in its original form still wordless but hidden – that, for me, is something which I can only do through my practice. I became truly immersed in my creative pursuits via journaling, archiving and documenting my own life – both physical and psychological – my desire was to represent and preserve complex emotional patterns and at times incredibly difficult struggles.
Lindsay: When you create a piece, do you create it with a “message” in mind or do you let it develop or even be the interpretation of the viewer?
Fuschia: There are reoccurring themes within my work, and often there are threads from many messages that conflate in my output. For a long time I made work that was almost too prescriptive in its language, I wanted to leave no room for misinterpretation, I wanted to sit my audience down and tell them secrets, stories, give them invitations and chastise them. It was probably effective, but in the end the cycle became more entrapping than therapeutic, and I am sure it was also at times too confrontational to allow anybody inside – metaphorically, it was an apt representation of my outlook on life and interaction with other people. Over the past year I have taken an abrupt turn and now, working collaboratively with my girlfriend Louise Raines, my output is far more reticent and leaves far greater room for exploration, interpretation and fantasy. If I have a message, then the chances are, you might not read it – and if you interpret a meaning, then there is a possibility that it is entirely your own. I like that.
Lindsay: That is exactly my favourite thing about art in general, the possibility to create and take your own meaning from what you see and experience. Your images, created with a scanner, are very striking! What inspired you to make these images?
Fuschia: This project came about following a conversation between me and Louise, and began with her capturing images of her feet in thick wool socks. The tones, textures and sculptural effect was so striking to me, they were not photographs of socks, they were landscapes, artifacts, they were intimate in their proximity to the surface of the picture. We were interested in the boundary present in a traditional photograph – in material terms – the subject is always in front of the lens, never quite close enough to touch, never pressed against the camera, plastic wrapped and writhing. So, I wrapped myself in PVC and Louise pressed me against the glass plate of the scanner – the result was disturbing, evocative of meat or clay, reminiscent of Jenny Saville… but also sensual, sexual and very real. They, for me at least, have a sort of ‘juicy violence’ that is very affecting.
Lindsay: They are very much open to [viewer] interpretation in a beautiful, intimately confrontational way. However, this type of art can be disturbing to some people. What would you say to those who dislike your work because of its focus on sexuality?
Fuschia: I have had some experience of this, unsurprisingly! Firstly, I fully understand, for me too, my work is very visceral – the sexuality I present is not always a comfortable one, I don’t mean that I am at all uncomfortable in my sexual identity, more that some of the things which played a part in its formation were not positive. I think that it is the apparent ease of playing with this that can be disarming – some people don’t like that. I have been told on more than one occasion by viewers of my images; “I can’t stop looking at that piece – even though I really want to.” I think that sex and identity are very closely linked for me – we define ourselves at our deepest levels by our longings and our discovered kinks. Maybe that is not the case for others, but personally I feel that sexuality in art can be a myriad of things, just as it can in the bedroom – it can be a beautiful painting or a gruesome video, a subtle tilt of a neck or a body spread open.
Lindsay: What would you tell young people who wish to express themselves in similar ways, but are hesitant for whatever reason?
Fuschia: I think that regardless of age, if something is there to be expressed then that should be encouraged. For a long time my work was entirely private (and a lot of it still is!) and in that I felt safe in the knowledge that no one could be shocked or could change their opinion of me or any of those fears which we all have at some juncture. Art is not defined by its audience, but by its creation, and that is a very personal process. If you have a drive to express, then it is incredibly beneficial to follow that through. When considering the body as subject matter, I would say that there is a great difference between your body in the flesh and your body in front of the camera. It might not feel like it at the time the shutter is pressed, and you might feel the same concerns as when you look in a full length mirror or you might feel although you are breaching some unspoken rule of privacy or appropriateness… But as art your body is a stage for all your pleasures and sorrows, a communicative tool, it is hideously beautiful and exquisitely ugly – and it is also yours to use as you wish. Hesitancy is akin to anticipation; it might just be sweeter for the wait.
Lindsay: I agree! You should never hesitate to express what you feel in your heart! You mention in your works description in Cargo Collective that you are “interested in the exploration of the viewer/subject boundary,” could you expand on the reaction you are searching for in your viewers?
Fuschia: By this I mean two things – firstly I mean space, distance, the easily reachable and utterly unobtainable, how we view the subject from behind a lens, through a screen – we don’t stand in front of them and interact in a mutual interplay of feelings and reactions. I am interested to explore this via the addition and removal of layers, be they plastic, glass or thin air. To bring you up close and personal with the pores in my skin or the sheen on an apple, or to make looking face to face via an image so utterly different to actuality, separated by distances as subtle as the coating on photo paper or as evident as a mesh of wool and fibres. Secondly, I am speaking in terms of social norms and the politics of sharing – how I can in one image bring you into my bathroom and allow you to see my bathe, and in another I deny you all but the merest hint of the full story. This is something that has evolved hugely since working with Louise, we create images prolifically and habitually, and often those which we put forward for others to view are those which question the viewer’s permission to look, which accentuate the fact that all they have is the final image, not the whole story of its creation. I enjoy this revealing and withholding, there is something far more captivating about toying with it than easily giving it up.
Lindsay: I love the way these images seem to speak to the viewer, though the words they speak are entirely personal to the viewer. This in itself has an erotic and intimate feel. Twice you’ve been nominated for EroticArtist of the Year at the Erotic Awards; both in 2012 and 2013. How did it feel when you were nominated for Erotic Artist of the Year in 2012; the first time?
Fuschia: Truthfully, I was a little perplexed… not that it was not a happy and really very exciting discovery, but I was nominated for images that were to me on the less sexual and more aesthetic, or anti-aesthetic as the case may be, side of my work. I did not necessarily think of them as erotic, more as just honest representations of how I felt in my own body at the time.
I had recently moved to London, was not happy in my personal life and I was just attempting to find my footing in a section of the art scene which I had had very limited involvement in prior to my first show at Sh!. It was a really encouraging thing, and although I did not win, it was a confirmation to me that there was an audience for my work – and that is something which meant a great deal.
Lindsay: Of all your publications, like your photography in Belle Jar Magazine, the work you’ve done for KD Grace, your solo show, your work for Sh!, etc – which would you say best reflects you as an artist?
Fuschia: This is difficult because I am always evolving how I present myself. I would have to say that my recent solo show in Hoxton, ‘Fuschia Ayling :: Details Unknown,’ is the best representation of how I am currently working, and how I intend to continue working for the foreseeable future. My collaborative works are definitely the closest I’ve got to creating something which I feel speaks coherently about my interests and concerns. Working so closely with somebody who knows me so well and shares many of my interests is, I feel, the best representation of my artistic self.
Lindsay: You’ve also studied at Kingston University, in London; are you still studying there?
Fuschia: Yes, I am about to go into my third year.
Lindsay: Do you think being in London has affected your art, particularly these images?
Fuschia: None of these images were actually created in London, I spend a great deal of time with Louise at her home in Sussex – surrounded by woodland, water and landscape familiar to me in its similarity to Cornwall – and it is here that we produce the majority of our work.
London has probably affected my output in a remote way, however – the relative stress I feel when there means that when I get to go away and focus on creating artwork I am even more appreciative of my surroundings. Not that being in London has been a negative experience in the slightest, its variety and the sheer number of people there are fascinating to me – I think more about my work in terms of other people, my convictions as common to others or different from others. London is artistically and culturally vibrant and that is infectious.
Lindsay: If you could exhibit your art anywhere else in the world, where would you choose?
Fuschia: This is a wonderful and very difficult question! I think, without thinking too much about it, I would have to interpret this in a very specific way and say – anywhere with vast rooms, and an open minded audience!
Lindsay: Okay, just for fun… Name one famous person that you would like to use as a subject in your work, and how would you use them?
Fuschia: In a contemporary sense I cannot think of anyone… but if I could also bring back the dead, I would say both Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore and I would simply like to take their portrait – they were way before their time in their collaborative use of the self-portrait, and the way in which they presented the fluidity, complexity and sometimes challenging nature of identity and sexuality is, to me, incredibly inspirational.