hetty douglas and patrick dakers explore sexuality and subvert gender
The two artists are on “a quest for meaningful love and true identity in a world that screams fuck me and fuck off,” in their joint exhibition, Finger.
While Hetty Douglas' work screams the thoughts usually confined to anonymous messages on the back of toilet doors, personal diaries, drunk texts, Tinder messages and late-night confessions of undying lust ("I'm not fucking cute", "sorry for treating you like shit & 4 fingering your best m8", and "Don't call anybody else baby"), Patrick Dakers' paintings turn the masculine connotations of pankration (the Grecian sport of wrestling) on its head, and explores the more feminine aspects found in a freeze-frame of the fighters' embrace. Together, Hetty and Patrick are presenting Finger, an exhibition opening tonight at 71a Gallery, that goes deep and personal into the superficiality and intensity of relationships and sexuality, and pushes gender boundaries. We chat to the pair pre-opening about masculinity, femininity and meaningful love to the internet generation…
Why is your exhibition called Finger?
Hetty: We thought it would be interesting to see peoples interpretations of the word "finger". I think Patrick and myself definitely have different interpretations to each other and it's not the way round you would think!
How did would you describe your overall aesthetic?
Hetty: Contemporary, personal, iconoclastic, masculine and feminine.
Patrick: Androgyny, embracing, freeze frame.
What is it you're trying to say with your art?
Hetty: There are often deeply personal responses and explorations into relationships, and this is a matter of me trying to understand them for myself. I'm trying to understand the superficiality of relationships, sexuality, trust, control and what this means to us.
Patrick: Mainly my interest in human bodies interacting, the moment of awkward embracing. Similarities and differences between bodies whether that is male or female.
Hetty, where do the words on your paintings come from?
Hetty: Pretty instinctual thoughts, say if I'm thinking about how fit a girl is, or how annoying someone is, or how I feel about a situation that's happening, they're very in the moment thoughts.
Hetty, the colour pink and other tropes of girlishness has in the past been used as a sign of female objectification/infantilisation, but now it's been reclaimed as a symbol of female empowerment, how do you feel about this?
Hetty: I've always been confused why I love/use a lot of pink in my work - when I was younger I hated pink, because I associated it with girliness and I never quite felt comfortable with that, it wasn't really what I was into and I hated being told what I was "supposed" to be into by peers, teachers, and dickheads in general. But why is it a symbol of empowerment? Why do we associate that colour with females? It's a colour…
Patrick, where did you learn about pankration and what interests you about it?
Patrick: It had scarcely any rules so the holds, locks and chokes make for really interesting positions. The violence part of it doesn't interest me at all but freezing a moment in wrestling does, hopefully my work looks more like an embrace than people having a scrap. It's very much a starting point that gets pushed out.
Why do you think your work goes well with each others?
Patrick: For a long time we didn't think the work would sit well together. That's probably has a lot to do with us not doing this show for a while. We kept saying how our work is a bit chalk and cheese. So probably yes and no, the show should be comfortably uncomfortable.
Where does your interest in gender stem from?
Hetty: Do I have to answer this? It's that question that immediately rubber stamps you and your work, I see the word as loaded. My work is addressing identity… my sexual identity and my observations of relationships 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.
Patrick: While I'm interested in gender as it relates to form. My interests lie more in the spaces between: androgyny, the subtle and not so subtle similarities and differences between genders and bodies.
What is "meaningful love" to the generation who grew up online?
Does your Instagram show the world a perfect you?
Hetty: Of course not, but for me personally, I think some of my work (which I post on Instagram) does show a level of frustration and my far from perfect thoughts.
What are you working on next?
Hetty: Hopefully an upcoming exhibition in New York.
Patrick: New York too. And another group show in the works.
Finger is open 28th January - 31st January at 71a Gallery.
Text Felicity Kinsella