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Aries as a girl

Imaginary Bang is an approximately monthly column about art shows.

In the year of the Barbie few objects slipped the noose of girlification. It was amusing to see therefore the inexorable extension of the fashion to the realm of the art exhibition at Studio West’s The Blush on Her Cheek. It was a show which felt incredibly now or perhaps a now becoming yesterday, a ‘a few months ago’. 

I sauntered over to the gallery on a wet afternoon with my friend Pia who’s moving away — Pia saw the show advertised on Instagram. The space is in Notting Hill, off of Portobello Road. It’s relatively new (2021), set up by Caroline Boseley, former lawyer turn curator, and looks to champion emerging UK talent. The grey-walled room was manned by a young, spritely blonde woman who busily attended to the cutting of the fresh white tulips which featured in a number of the show’s pieces. The room had a fine, department-store-type smell owing to a candle by the loose pile of exhibition guides. The woman tells us that the gallery often lights a candle which matches the energy of the works on show. The scent eludes me now; but if I were to imagine some appropriate notes, I would opt for the soporific and the floral: jasmine, rose petal, the chalk of anti-anxiety meds.

The work of the three artists presented melted together gently to an effete reverie. It began with the portraiture of Ki Yoong, his oil portraits painted onto glass and wood block. The nymphette subjects gave plain, doe-eyed gazes offering themselves up freely to penetrating eyes. The portraits were around A5, the slight scale adding to their non-imposing femininity. In many places they were paired with the sensitive metal sculpture of Leo Costelloe. The sculptures though often referencing the domestic favoured prettiness over function. A  knife and fork dwindled into unusable ribbon, a single tulip was held precariously in a waterless vessel, a dinner candle sat awkwardly on a dainty metal bow. Girlish immaturity nary womanly competence. A marginally more mature vision of femininity was limned by Florence Reekie’s paintings which focused on soft textures and fabrics, skilfully and abstractly portrayed: silk, velvet, hair. A pointed stiletto heel gave the first overt allusion to sex, whilst remaining within the coquette feel of the exhibition. 

I don’t pretend here to provide an explanation for the prevalence of juvenile femininity in contemporary culture. There is, besides, already a glut of such reports. I have linked a couple below. They take a rather upbeat view of things. The writers suggest that this moment is about the embrace of frivolity post the more wilful neoliberal visions of feminism popular in the 2010s. They also ask whether it is anything more than another trend in the self-cannibalising wheel of internet culture.


Shoreditch Arts Club is a private members club in the Tea House Building, the same building as Shoreditch House. I was invited a few weeks ago to see a group show by a black collective called What No Fear Looks Like, the exhibition bore the same name.

The three tiered room was plush and hermetically sealed. A cloakroom attendant swiftly whisked my coat and bag off of my reluctant shoulders and ushered me in; before I could blink there was a pacifying drink in my hand and I was melting into the too-soft furniture. The place was drowsy in a different way to Studio West, rather than the idleness of girlhood, it was the lethargy of wealth which hushed me to sleep.

The art was well integrated into the space but of limited quantity. There were maybe six distinct works across it. I was told that a performance was to occur but I did not witness one — I was later informed that this was due to some unanticipated issues on the night. The Arts Club is very much not an art gallery, and with the limited scale of the exhibition and the busyness of the space, the show did find itself competing somewhat with the private members and their emails and spreadsheets and the bar staff whipping up mules and pouring beers. Some of the art stood out to me nevertheless. My favourite pieces in the exhibition were the two short films shown in the entirely peach-coloured cinema room. The sound was slightly too low in the open theatre (likely so as to avoid disturbing the laptop creatives) but I could make out most of it. The first film ‘What is Mine?’ by Ramzia Jawara was a moving flurry of dance and hyper-saturated and then dramatically desaturated moving image. Both abstract and figurative at different times, it followed a black woman as she experimented with movement across various natural and urban environments. Over the top of the video was a mix of political messaging, sometimes racist diatribes other times stirring poetry and protest speech. Most prominent was the sound of the poem Capitalism by Porsha O. which played for a significant portion of the film. The film which followed was set in a white room. In ‘No Floor No Ceiling’ by Sam Oladele and Ijeoma Uzoukwu, a black male protagonist shifts his body across various austere white furniture, struggling to find comfortable purchase. The metaphor is simple. The visual was touching.

I recently stumbled across a second hand book of Bible verses and pagan imagery with a beguiling though ambiguously cruel verse from Isaiah listed under Aries. Now that we’re well into March and the bluebells are already drying, it feels like an appropriate and honest end to the first springtime column —

For before the harvest,

when the blossom is over

and the flower becomes

a ripening grape, he will

cut off the shoots with

pruning hooks, and the 

spreading branches he 

will hew away.

  1. Yousra Siddiqui, How Celebrating Girlhood Quickly Became the Internet's Favorite Trend, January 2024,

  2. Olivia Allen, Girl Trends Are Everywhere. What The Hell Is Going On? September 2023, Refinery29

  3. Allie Rowbottom, Fashion Is Selling Girlhood. Are You Buying It? January 11 2024, Elle

  4. Daniel Rodgers, Girl, Stop: Let’s End The Tyranny Of 2023’s “Girl” Trends, 24 December 2023


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