I watched the recent interview by Shoair Mavlian of Photoworks with Maisie Cousins which centered around her latest book and show Rubbish, Dipping Sauce, Grass, Peony, Bum. I have seen some of her images before and have not been altogether sure about my feelings, however, listening to her talk about them made more sense. Cousins explained how she had not enjoyed either school or university as she felt too constrained by other people choices and the need to be able to explain exactly what she was doing and why. However, her present way of working is probably a direct result of that, she left and immediately felt unconstrained. She said, ‘I like to collect things over years and then to figure out what is going on’. She feels that putting images out as a book or a show is important as it sums the work up, allows closure and allows you to see the images at the scale she imagines them as. Many of her images are macro, then shown vastly blown up. The images in the latest book are full bleed, showing no white and very vivid. The cover is shiny gold, to echo the floor from one of her exhibitions at T.J.Boultings. Her images are often full of decay, gross, phallic and repulsive (although strangely beautiful). She uses intense lighting, and everything is in sharp focus and does minimal post-production work.
She spent some time discussing her feelings about photography. She mainly takes still-life at present. She said ‘I don’t take photos of people because it can seem you are imposing yourself on them …. Photography can be very arrogant’. She rarely uses a tripod in her personal work as she like to feel the camera as part of her, a third arm. ‘The lens becomes an extension of my body’.
Overall, this was a fascinating interview and I then spent some time looking at her images. They are lush and vibrant. Surprisingly uplifting given that many of them are of decayed objects. I have added her book to my ‘wish list’.
I have now managed to acquire a copy of the book discussed above and it is just as lush as I expected it to be. Some of the images I love, others less so, probably because I have a phobia about slugs, but oddly enough not about snails, either to touch or to eat. Maybe if I put it on my wall, I can manage self-therapy! The cover is a deep and shiny gold, smooth and tactile, highly reflective – I want to somehow balance it in front of me and take my reflection in it. In the initial essay Simon Baker describes her work as ‘decadent and seductive’. It is certainly that, the cherries look so ripe I want to eat them. If it wasn’t impossible just now (lockdown), I might have found myself going to the nearest supermarket to buy a punnet, then consume them all. But then I see the ants, and somehow my appetite is gone.
Serendipitously, in the same post, I received a copy of Bernard O’Donoghue’s The Seasons of Cullen Church. (O’Donoghue,2018) A quiet, calm book of poetry, wrapped in brown, that talks about the life in Ireland in the past. A meditation. Just the opposite. Or is it? It talks about death and the breaking down of life, and near the end is a short poem entitled Dublin Bay, which includes the lines
To begin with, tight knots, dark bruises
the colour of drying, hardened blood.
So where does that flare of folded red
come from, that parachute silk
of layered satin
A perfect pairing of poems and pictures.
The interview can be watched at:
https://www.instagram.com/p/B_Mzz-rjKV2/ [Accessed 28 Apr. 2020]
See her website for more of the images:
https://www.maisiecousins.com/ [Accessed 28 Apr. 2020]
Cousins, M. (2019) Rubbish,Dipping sauce,Grass peonie bum. (s.l.): Trolley Ltd.
Cousins, M. (s.d.) grass, peonie, bum. At: https://www.maisiecousins.com/ (Accessed on 28 April 2020)
Mavlian, S. (2020) Photoworks’s Instagram profile post: “Shoair Mavlian, Director, Photoworks, in discussion with Maisie Cousins in the latest in our series of virtual book launches on the….” At: https://www.instagram.com/p/B_Mzz-rjKV2/ (Accessed on 28 April 2020)
O’Donoghue, B. (2019) Seasons of Cullen Church. Padstow: Faber & Faber, Limited.