Wonderland.

EYES ON: MAISIE COUSINS

The photographer talks us through her solo debut, grass, peonie, bum.

Photographic artist Maisie Cousins was born in 1992 and currently has over 54,000 people following her on Instagram. She lives in London, where tomorrow she will present her first solo exhibition: it will be open five days a week between 11am and 6pm, and run until 24th June, which is a Saturday. Her last show, titled Offerings, partnered her with Francesca Allen, who exhibited Feel Sick / Hot Flush and ran from 10th-27th February at KK Outlet in Hoxton.

Behind a camera since adolescence, Cousins’ work explores such themes as femininity, power and nature; her lens fully embraces naked flesh, as the pictures here – taken from grass, peonie, bum – demonstrate, while elsewhere she’s more recently turned to collage, frequently still with the human body in mind. Below she tells us about navigating the industry and how she arrived at grass, peonie, bum.

This is your first solo show. How did it all come about?

I’ve made a lot of work with the same themes for several years, it’s like I can’t shake some certain things away and I think it’s because the photos never resulted in anything physical. I just kept making them all the time, some crap, some that really excited me; just putting something online is not a satisfying enough end for it. The process of the pictures is really tactile and messy, but what I end up with is a bunch of pixels on a hard drive, I’ve even tried using film to compensate for the lack of physical outcomes but I’m just a digital slut and always will be. So it’s a mix of relief and excitement, it’s been brewing for over a year now and so happy it’s ended up where it has with Mia and TJ Boulting.

Talk us through the title, grass, peonie, bum. No caps?

I wanted it to sound like a list of things, like listing your observations. I don’t think a title needs to be a profound statement.

The series is the result of several years work, right? How easy was it to come up with a final selection?

The images are the ones I think emulate what I’ve been trying to express over the past few years, which I’m not that comfortable putting into words yet. I think a lot of the work is to do with sexual expression and frustrations in some way, which is pretty obvious. The most early photo is from 2013, so I think I will look back at this work when I’m older and remember it as when I was discovering my sexuality in my early 20s.

Mia Pfeifer is your co-curator. When did you first meet?

It must be over a year ago now, she approached me after finding me online – I’m so glad she did. I have never met anyone like her, she’s so powerful and I just love her. Having a curator has been so helpful, especially with the practicalities. She’s managed to make it happen and plan better than I ever could. 

You’ve been shooting since you were a teenager, but it’s in the last few years that your work’s really gained its greatest audience. You ‘arrived’ then, if you will, at a time when female, specifically young, photographers were creating a big noise within the industry. What do you think led to so many young women photographers gaining momentum at the same time?

Absolutely, I think about this a lot. I don’t think I would get any attention if this was 20 years ago. It’s the rise of the internet, the audience doubles – it’s not just about galleries anymore, anyone who has the internet can see your work. What I dislike about the art world is how much of a bubble it is, it’s so out of touch with reality, I don’t know why making art for the public is looked down on. A lot of photographers now work in-between the art world and the commercial world which I think is a really effective way of breaking down the public/art segregation. 

And how do you think, if at all, the female gaze has changed or developed in the last two years, in terms of photography?  

It’s always been there, but it’s been ignored or only existed scattered. I’ve always felt men got to have all the big groups and movements within photography, but now us women have them too! It would be nice for us to make interesting work together, the gender divide in group shows is repetitive. 

What are the biggest misconceptions people have of young, London based photographers, in your opinion?

I don’t know, selfie obsessed? Narcissistic? Perhaps lucky as we have so many accessible platforms. I feel a lot of guilt as an artist, not sure why. I always feel guilty I don’t shoot film but not sure where that guilt has come from either. 

Returning to the show, talk us through the imagery.

There’s lots of wet flowers, some bums and a few bugs. I also have a room of just videos which is really exciting but terrifying as technology is so temperamental.
 
So true. Beyond your own practice, which photographers are most exciting you today?

The other day I found a picture of an ant on a shiny red toe by a commercial photographer called Hiro and I’ve never seen it before and that was exciting.

Finally, who should Wonderland be following on Instagram? 

I love Molly Matalon’s work at the moment.

grass, peonie, bum opens at at TJ Boulting on 17th May; Maisie will also present work at TJ Boulting’s Photo London booth at Somerset House 17th-21st May.

Words
Zoe Whitfield
EYES ON: MAISIE COUSINS

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