Aurora Campbell is a Melbourne-based artist who explores the link between technology and sex, relationships, self-esteem, sexuality and vulnerability. In an age where Tinder has become the main tool for courtship, she is interested in how the modern day smart phone is reinventing self-portraits. By touching on topics such as revenge porn, female sexuality and body image, her work aims to “pick up where the media fails us — by portraying genuine, varied people through an honest lens”.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what inspires your work?
My work is inspired pretty heavily by female experience – the experiences of of me, my friends, people I know and conversations I have. There is a really strong element of female sexuality throughout my drawings, and in that I try to keep it as raw and honest as possible. My work is my way of reclaiming my relationship with my body and my sexuality – things that I didn’t really feel in control of when I was younger (and sometimes still don’t!).
A lot of your recent work is made up of black and white ink drawings; was there a particular reason why you chose to work without colour?
It basically comes down to the fact that I work full-time and don’t have a studio space – logistically it’s easy to make small works on paper with pens. I don’t have time or space to paint right now. I’ve spent years exploring a lot of different mediums. I often felt overwhelmed by options because I’m restless and love to work with so many different materials, but I think as my style developed it felt right to commit to black and white ink and to explore that more fully. This will be the longest I’ve gone in my life working consistently with one medium; it’s been just over one year of working on these black and white ink drawings.
On top of that, I think the subject matter of these works suits the bold contrast of fine liner pens (intricate pubes, labia folds, nipple bumps etc etc), I can do them anywhere, its cheap and I suppose being able to carry a sketchbook and a pen around has just been suiting my lifestyle.
In the past you’ve mentioned that you’re interested in the use of Tinder and the ways in which we use smartphones to create bonds? Vanity Fair ran a salty article about Tinder, quoting one female who said “If a woman publicly expresses any discomfort about the hook-up culture, it’s like you’re weak, you’re not independent, you somehow missed the whole memo about third-wave feminism.” What are your thoughts on this?
My thoughts are that people should do whatever they want. I don’t think it’s unprogressive not to be interested in hook-up culture. Hook-up culture can be a twisted, exhausting, complicated game. It’s not my intention to glorify hook-up culture, but I definitely explore it.
You’re not afraid to address female masturbation directly. Have you come up against critique for doing so and why do you think that, for many, this is still a taboo topic?
No critique thus far, it’s more just awkward that everyone now knows that, I too, masturbate. I guess because it’s seen as such a personal, private act. It’s probably the most uninhibited thing someone could do and where else in our lives are we that unguarded? I also think female masturbation is still pretty taboo, it’s considered a real lads thing, a basic male need. However, when it comes to women, it’s not as openly discussed. You never hear quips about females masturbating in the same ‘boys will be boy’s’ tone you do regarding male masturbation, which sends the message that its more natural for boys than it is for girls.
Are there any other artists that influence or inspire your work?
I love erotic photography. My favourite photographer is Dian Hanson. I also really love looking at Shunga (Japanese erotic art). It just looks so fluid and pleasant and there seems to be a big emphasises on female pleasure. There is something really respectful and loving in these images; they are quite shameless and beautiful. My biggest reference point would have to be the iPhone camera roll though.
The captions alongside your work often have a cryptic feel to them; ‘Boundary issues’, ‘I don’t normally do this’. Do these captions come from a personal place?
Yep, big time. I use my work to explore a lot of my own inner tension, and that often comes out in the captions. They are a bit of a safeguard, or protective mechanism for me not to have to expose myself massively through words, but instead, predominantly through drawing (which is, of course my favoured language).
You’ve hosted workshops and have a solo show coming up later in the year. With such a no holds barred, raw approach to your subject matter, do you find that this helps women open up and relate to you more during these kinds of events?
Yeah, definitely. I think people respond in a special way when you allow yourself to be vulnerable and open up personally through your work, especially when they feel like they can relate to it in some way. Art is a great conversation starter and probably where I’ve made my biggest connections in life. My work is definitely not for everyone, and I think it can put a block up with some people, but that’s just the nature of putting yourself out there and being vulnerable.
I have an upcoming solo show in September at Budd St Gallery (Melbourne), which is mostly based around female relationships; relationships with ourselves, our bodies and each other. I’ve looked to my close friends for material and references, so I’m really excited to present these themes in a way that is 100% familiar and authentic to me and the women I love.
What’s the main message you’d like your work to send out?
I think I would like my work honestly portray female sexuality. I strive to make humorous, real work that is an accurate depiction of the feminine experience. For me, my work is a way of reclaiming my own sexuality and body in a way that I wasn’t really able to when I was younger. My sense of self was really dictated by a lot of external, societal factors. I went through puberty reading Zoo magazine, thinking my weight was a problem and that pubic hair was obscene. I’m interested in reframing how young women view their bodies and sex. If I can somehow present these themes in a raw, honest light then I think that’s valuable.
To learn more about Aurora’s work, head over to her Instagram page.