Maisie Cousins can't remember a time when she wasn't making art. While struggling at school, art became a medium through which she was able to escape, and it's something she's been exploring ever since. Hedonistic and performative, Maisie's work explores themes of power, femininity, nature, technology, colour and indulgence. Whether it's a close up of glistening flesh or the textured imprint of grass on skin, her photographs are bright, bold and full of visceral charm. Fresh from exhibiting at the all-girl art exhibition Female Matters, we catch up with the artist to chat fashionable feminism, and why it's so important to work woman to woman.
What made you gravitate towards art?
There's no specific time I remember thinking art was for me, I just always did it. I do remember failing everything else at school and teachers would say, 'you have so much potential, why do you let yourself down?' and I'd think, potential for what??? School for me was awful; I really struggled with it. Art was something I did to escape.
Your work is very visceral, how can you explain this?
I find it impossible not to work viscerally. I love to ignore any planning, just shoot instinctively. I love following my gut feelings and exciting myself. When it's just me and a space and some stuff to make a mess with, I get really into it.
What is the significance of nudity in your work?
The first nude photo I took was of my friend Lucy, she's naked under street light in the middle of the night and all you can see is the moon behind her. At that point I was obsessed with the idea that female bodies are linked to the moon through menstrual cycles. I found her openness to be naked really empowering and we still shoot together now. You get to see someone in a whole new way, you understand their insecurities and you work around them, a nude model is so vulnerable and you have to respect that.
You recently took part in the all girl art exhibition Female Matters, how important is it to you to work with other women?
I was so impressed with Female Matters, it was amazing. I feel so honoured to be part of it. Working with other women is the most important thing to me.
How do you feel about feminist art becoming a trend?
Mixed feelings. One half of me thinks it's great that feminism is breaking into the commercial world but the other half thinks, come on girls, let's have a little imagination. You see a lot of the same imagery for example glitter on tampons or sex toys on pink paper. I think it's okay and doing the whole middle finger to patriarchy thing but it's also what is expected. This sort of imagery can be quite cis, girl-exclusive, white chicks with fashion tits. Palatable or fashionable feminism isn't really empowering anyone; it's just profitable. However it's a form of communication and bonding between girls and that ultimately is most important.
What are you working on at the moment?
I went a bit mad when I graduated and I'm still sort of getting over those feelings. It was the most exciting and relieving time but also incredibly depressing. Right now I'm working on a book of collages, and would like to have a launch party for that.