Flashing sexy, sweet, and sickly images tailored for the modern-day girl, illustrator POLLY NOR tells tales of relationship mishaps, weekend regrets, and sex-driven stupors through her lady-like demons.
In scenes of lava lamps on bedside tables and posters on pastel-colored walls, British artist Polly Nor pens an alternate-slash-internal universe in which the devil no longer dresses itself in crow’s wings, but in the skin of a girl in the modern world. Capturing the average female character in the confines of her childhood bedroom, she realizes the present-day, vulnerable, and unabashedly sexual she-demon in all of us through her characters, doing whatever they want: be it hiding under flesh, talking about sex, masturbating in the sheets, or self-shaming with a glass of wine in hand. “I use very sickly, sweet, girly colors in my work, but I set them in a dull shade to give a dark, stagnant atmosphere.” It’s this visually appealing, notch-above fucked-up aesthetic that she’s shared with Hunger TV, EMI Records, Salzburg Festival, and has been featured in Dazed Digital, Cool Hunting, Vagabomb, and ASOS.
Growing up, drawing was just something that came very natural to her. “I carried on to university, but I eventually started feeling very restricted by the way I was doing things. I was creating all of my work digitally, and I didn’t feel at all connected with my pieces. So I decided to start drawing by hand again, making little funny things that came up in conversations with my girlfriends,” she recalls. “I started sharing them on Instagram and people responded to them, which was cool. I’ve moved on to drawing bigger and more detailed scenes with more narratives and characters that actually mean something to me. I guess it all kind of grew from there.” Imposing a pure and peculiar state of erotica, she draws a vivid landscape of what happens behind closed doors instead of the usually pleasant and dainty scenes of a girl’s bedroom, as seen in her latest exhibit Sorry Grandma. “I’m kind of blowing my own trumpet here with these comparisons, but I would like to think that my work falls somewhere between Toshio Saeki and Chris (Simpsons Artist) with a female twist,” she says of her aesthetic.
“Kids are now learning about sexual relationships from an industry that’s created almost entirely by men for men, and i think that’s so fucked up.”
Employing her feisty little devils as a figment of the female’s imagination, she’s been exposed to the image well enough, having seen them in her father’s studio as well as having her own collection of vintage devil posters. “It was never really a conscious decision to adopt it as a recurring theme; it just kind of happened and worked. It’s definitely become a main character within my work, but the character is constantly changing and evolving, being used to represent different ideas and stories.” True enough, its involvement in the story is never intentionally frightening; on the contrary, it retains a humor almost slapstick it its shock factor, but abstract in a way that makes you linger on the sharp nails and horns of her characters.
With her Instagram bio reading, “I draw women and devils for women and devils,” it’s easy to read between the lines and pen strokes that her art is for herself, which transcends into a bigger, relatable conversation. “Social media is a big influence; my work wouldn’t be an accurate representation of youth culture if the Internet wasn’t a part of my drawings. I screenshot anything I want to remember: texts, tweets, selfies. The subject matter usually comes from girl chat about life, sex, and love–they definitely play a part in my work.” With a touch of voyeurism at play, her figures are caught in all acts–sex, sass, tongues, and tears. “Sex is something that’s incredibly relevant and personal to everybody. For me, growing up in a generation with easy access to online pornography has made it a much more complex and unavoidable part of life. I think the changing relationship people have with sex and images of sex is really interesting.”
Sweeping off the remnants of misogyny, she questions the still-objectified image of women through the mainstream looking glass of the male species. “Kids are now learning about sexual relationships and how to be sexual from an industry that’s created almost entirely by men for men, and I think that’s so fucked up. We’re constantly being fed unrealistic, patronizing ideas of women through most mainstream media,” she shares. “I also feel frustrated by the male-dominated porn industry’s warped representation of sex, the dynamic in sex, and female pleasure. Through most of the easily accessible pornographic sites, women are represented as submissive sex slaves with no ideas or preferences of their own and are treated like tools designed for male pleasure and gratification.” Quipping a synergy from both her hands and her exploration of female empathy, she continues to paint pretty and distorted pictures of relationship mishaps and weekend regrets, giving us a taste of what to look out for. “I just launched my online shop, which I’m planning to expand throughout the year, and I have some really exciting collaborations in the pipeline,” one that could involve artist Mary Stephenson. “I’m also currently working out how I could bring my drawings to life as installations for my big next exhibition.”
By Janroe Cabiles