AUTRE: SEXUAL PLEASURE TO DEATH: AN INTERVIEW OF FAWN ROGERS ON HER SERIES "THE WORLD IS YOUR OYSTER"

Millen Brown-Ewens, AUTRE, 2 Jun 2023

MILLEN BROWN-EWENS: Could you start by telling me a little bit about the paintings in your upcoming solo exhibition Burn, Gleam, Shine in Beijing with Galerie Marguo in July.

 

FAWN ROGERS: The work is from a series called The World is Your Oyster. The paintings are larger-than-life representations of sea personalities, which invite the viewer to dwell on the unbuilt world, death, and sex. Photorealistic from afar, at a closer view they are composed of painterly shapes and forms. They are seductive, erotic paintings that celebrate female sexuality. But I hope people will consider their wider resonances too. Human intervention in their cultivation has changed the primary process of their creation and relationships. Eroticism in this time is fraught with scary implications. We are so atomized as a species and removed from our origins that placing sexuality alongside environmental destruction almost feels forbidden, but I like things that feel forbidden.

 

BROWN-EWENS: What is the significance of the erotic and ostentatious image of the oyster in your paintings and how do you think this offers a critique of anthropocentrism?

 

ROGERS: I can’t help but to dismantle anthropocentrism in my work. At times it feels like a burden I was born with, it’s my reality, but essentially, I’m trying to find harmony through my work. The World is Your Oyster pays homage to these idiosyncratic and complex forms, inviting viewers to consider life, sex, and death simultaneously. While oysters are commonly considered luxurious rarities forged by nature, like many things, we have subverted the organic process of their creation. The oysters are harvested and pearls cultivated. An excision made to the oyster's flesh assaults the viewers' senses; ultimately this work is both violent and sensual, and at the center of these contradictions, the oyster is a symbol of lust, pleasure, opulence, and indulgence, all-consuming and offered up for consumption, a literal embodiment of the anthropocentric.

 

BROWN-EWENS: Your style incorporates hyperrealism with conceptualism to create these pillowy, silky scenes. Could you tell me a little bit about the interaction of these styles and practically how you set about depicting them?

 

ROGERS: I like the interplay between the representational qualities of painting and scale. My paintings of oysters teeter between realism and abstraction, depending on your point of view. They are my mandalas with a prayer, but I’m not religious. Before these paintings, however, I created a body of works called Eat You Eat Me, a two-channel video, The World is Your Oyster, then another series called Poisonous Harmony—all flirting with ideas that would come together in these current paintings. It was at this point when I found myself wanting to create these giant, sexy, wet, gooey oysters and through that deep dive arrived at wanting to have a visceral experience up close and personal with their forms. After painting them in a realistic way, I found the process a bit boring and decided to go back over each of them to take a closer look, and that’s how I ended up with this representational interplay that highlights the oyster’s many complicated and confounding qualities. They can harbor deadly bacteria while being a delicacy and perhaps an aphrodisiac. Plus, there are so many fertile concepts that attach to oysters. The expression “the world is your oyster” is said to young people embarking on life, but it comes from a Shakespeare play, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and there is an undertone of violence in how it is used. Dutch historical paintings of feasts often depict oysters and their symbolism for morality or sensuality. During the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1919, oyster beds were raided because they were thought to help prevent the disease. Oysters span everything from sexual pleasure to death, environmental violence and luxury consumption to femininity. They are even being used to build storm barriers in New York.

 

 

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