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Hetty Douglas

These artworks are an insight into modern love

Two artists share their quest for love in a dating pool that screams ‘fuck me and fuck off’

“I’m not fucking cute”, “sorry for treating you like shit + 4 fingering your best m8” and “UR PENG” may read more like scrawlings on the back of your school time sketchbook than what you’d expect to see at a gallery space. But Peckham based painter Hetty Douglas uses a canvas where most of us would deem a diary more appropriate.

Splashing Facebook messages and her most private thoughts across iconoclastic large scale paintings, you may have seen Douglas’ relatable work splashed across your Insta-feed, but upcoming exhibition FINGER is her first IRL outing. Teaming up with fellow fine artist Patrick Dakers, whose colour blocked sculptural and painted work subtly subverts gender roles by reworking neo-classical composition through a postmodern gaze, the duo may seem an unlikely match. But as Daker says, “similar work does not always make for a interesting show. The idea of chalk and cheese is a big part of us and the exhibition.” With their combined influences spanning Picasso, De Stijl, and the cubist movement to Jean-Michel Basquiat and Ida Ekblad, it’s not just the show’s origins that demonstrate juxtaposition. Both Dakers and Douglas’ work deal with the idea of opposites, pairing unlikely shapes and motifs together to illustrate how they individually see the world.

Douglas may be interested in the idea of how we prescribe colours with specific genders, with her work and generous use of pink touching upon themes of her own personal relationships and sexuality, but she feels hesitant to label what she does as an exploration of gender. “My work could so easily be loaded with the weight of that word... I’m trying to sidestep it in the most honest way I know how.” She instead attributes her obsession with relationships as her biggest driving force, “I guess I'm trying to understand them. I find it so weird and interesting how intense, toxic, fun, temporary and unhealthy, they can be. I like exploring the concept of trust, control and what this means to us.”

Dakers is less quick to dismiss the role gender plays in his practise, instead relaying a non-conventional approach to the subject, effortlessly weaving symbols of masculinity with constructs of femininity. “While I’m interested in gender as it relates to form, I’m less concerned about making any kind of social or political commentary. My interests lie more in the spaces between: androgyny, the subtle and not so subtle similarities and differences between genders and bodies.”

“I guess I'm trying to understand them (relationships). I find it so weird and interesting how intense, toxic, fun, temporary and unhealthy, they can be” – Hetty Douglas

The simple notion of having the time to create personal work is something any emerging artist struggles with. With most creative people juggling a day job with personal interests against the increasingly oppressive backdrop of Tory Britain, it’s becoming harder and harder to launch an art career in London’s current climate. While Dakers suggests making personal work is a “bit of a luxury,”  Douglas particularly takes issue with the inaccessibility of physical spaces for upcoming artists to showcase. “It’s just extremely difficult unless you’re an established artist to try and get galleries to let you do a show, it’s completely fucked up how places charge a ridiculous amount per night for you to show your work. It shouldn’t be that way and it’s a shame.”

With that in mind it’s easy to see why people are embarking on online art careers, and carving your own space devoid from art world politics and exploitative price tags is an appealing prospect. More and more artists may be moving away from traditional mediums, but the Douglas and Dakers are breathing new life into sculpture and painting, with both creatives stressing the importance of IRL art exhibitions despite the often hefty price tag. “My work is heavily textural it’s my favourite part of making my paintings. Those elements are completely flattened and lost as soon as it becomes an a static 2D image”, Douglas says. It’s a sentiment that Dakers also agrees upon. “I can understand that physical settings might be less of a concern for some people, but for me the blemishes and imperfections are really important,” he says, “while I understand we live in a digital age, I’m not sure I agree it’s a digital world.”

FINGER opens runs 28th-31st, January 2016 at the 71a Gallery, with the opening night 28th, January from 6pm– more info here. Supported by our friends at Converse.