from sea nymphs to woodland pixies, prue stent’s nudes are totally surreal

We talk to the artist about sexuality, fertility, and the power of Mother Nature.

by Tish Weinstock
29 July 2015, 12:53pm

Living on a rugged sandstone headland in the beachside suburbs of Sydney her whole life, Prue Stent has always been at one with nature. In fact, her whole body of work revolves around it. From sea nymphs bathing in rock pools to woodland pixies hiding amongst the trees, Prue's work centers on the relationship between the naked female form and the natural world around us. Through disembodied limbs and hidden faces, obscure close-ups and underwater reflections, Prue adds an element of mystery to the otherwise familiar. It is this uncanny element of the surreal which caught the eye of the Secret Garden Party organisers, who asked her to create bespoke installations for their 2014 and 2015 festival. We catch up with the mystical artist as she works towards her first solo exhibition. 

What piqued your interest in the art world?
I have been obsessed with art for as long as I can remember. My parents were collectors of all sorts of art, so it's just been something I have always been surrounded by. When I was in high school I was lucky to be friends with a group of girls who had an interest in putting ourselves out there and creating wacky work. It was our way of having fun and expressing ourselves and since then it's never really stopped. I'm still collaborating with the group of friends I've had since I was about 13.

What is it about photography that appeals to you?
Photography has an immediacy and flexibility that I find irresistible. My motivation is to create new ideas and stimulate new thoughts. I aim to create images that are bizarre, provocative and unsettling by juxtaposing the unexpected. Photography is a natural way for me to capture these concepts. It allows me to be instantaneous but there is also a lot of work that goes on in post-production, which I find extremely exciting despite it being a more laborious and introverted exercise.

What inspires you?
I'm interested in work that fuses feminism, fetishises and surrealism. I'm excited by the work of other young contemporary female artists who are challenging the status quo. I'm particularly interest in creatives who are working to push boundaries in installation art and costume design.

What is the significance of nudity in your work?
There is something about the elements of nudity I find appealing - fleshy, pink, soft. It can be gruesome and beautiful. When you use nudity people are exposed to something intimate and familiar yet also removed and challenging. That gives the artist a lot of emotions to play with.

What does the female body mean to you from an artistic perspective?
Choosing to work predominantly with the female form and environment underpins the works with ideas of sexuality, fertility and eroticism, highlighting these as important creative forces rather than devices of female disempowerment.

What's the significance behind obscuring the face or other body parts?
The paradox of the forms being anonymous yet enticing intrigues me. I like to focus on the female body and the essence of femininity rather than individuality and personality. If the viewer relates to anything it is not the familiar or recognizable - so what are they relating to?

There's a lot of references to nature within your work, could you elaborate on this?
I think there are two aspects to answering this. I grew up with a great natural studio on my doorstep. So it is not surprising that I have developed a strong affinity to nature. In the outdoors I feel a terrific freedom to explore my ideas. At the same time it is clear that by choosing to use Mother Nature as more than a backdrop I am making lots of references to fertility and sexuality.

What are you working on at the moment?
I'm working towards holding a solo exhibition. I have been trying to focus tightly on specific themes - which I'm finding challenging. Usually I can just indulge myself in a number of different creative ideas, so limiting my work to a single idea is quite hard. I have also recently been involved in a short film and quite a few collaborations with various fashion labels, artists, and musicians, which is always really fun. Upcoming projects include a music video and an installation piece for a festival early next year.

Prue Stent
Honey Long
Tish Weinstock