The concept of the "male gaze" and "female gaze" was first discussed by British art critic John Berger in his essays Ways of Seeing (Berger 1972). Later feminist writer Laura Mulvey (Mulvey, 1975) reinforces this concept claiming that in cinema the camera gaze is “male” due to the male perspective of filmmakers. I wanted to find how contemporary artists challenge the male gaze and I came across the daring and humorous illustrations of Polly Nor.
London-based artist Polly Nor challenges the image of the objectified woman, created by pornography and intended for male pleasure. In her interview for Dazed magazine (Dazed 2015), she states:
“I am questioning the ubiquitous male vision (of women),” she tells us, offering instead an “alternative view on sexuality, relationships and emotions from a modern-day female perspective.” - Polly Nor, Dazed 2015
Nor is inspired by “funny texts, angry tweets, memes and selfies” (Dazed 2015). Most of her work is self-directed. Her process begins on paper, where she implements her visions into hand drawings and then she colours digitally in nude and pastel hues.
Sexuality is a common subject matter in her artwork, depicted in satirical and light tone. The devil creature in her images represents the dark side of her characters, Nor explains.
Nor's work differs from mine, both in the way she represents the feminine role and her bold, comic-like style of drawing. While I use botanical, floral elements to create idealised feminine compositions, Nor is not afraid to show the flaws of her characters in domestic scenes. Sometimes the characters escape into a wild, tropical world which signifies the inner savage feminine desire.
Berger, J. 1972, Ways of seeing, Penguin, London.
Mulvey, L. 1975, Visual pleasure and narrative cinema, Screen, vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 6-18.