I Didn’t Want Flowers, I Wanted You To Fuck Me is a group art show showcasing some of Sydney’s best and brightest young female artists. It explores themes such as relationships, mental illness, anxiety and depression. I sat down with contributing artist and curator Anthea LeBrocq on a grey Saturday afternoon to talk about the show, the artists, collaboration, the inspiration for it all and LeBrocq’s new production company Lucky Productions. You can check it out at Tap Gallery from October 13-18.
Sydney Scoop: I Didn’t Want Flowers, I Wanted You To Fuck Me; Anthea, what is this title all about?
Anthea LeBrocq: The title comes from a piece of art which is going to be in the gallery. One of our artists, Leah, made the piece. She suffers from quite serious depression and I guess a lot of it comes from... well ...there's a lot of stigma surrounding women who suffer from depression and anxiety which is weird because more of my friends suffer from those things than those who don’t. A lot of these girls are in relationships and I guess you get stuck in this tug of war where you have this partner who is trying to do nice things for you and you have a very specific need and its really hard to meet it. Being in relationships with people who suffer from mental illness can be really stressful but at the same time suffering from it often leaves you in a place where you don’t know what you want and you can’t really describe it. A lot of the time, with women especially, you kind of feel like people think you are crazy or acting like a psycho when in reality it's more about not being able to make sense of these issues you are having.
SS: Would it be fair to say that the pieces being exhibited are trying to communicate something that the artists can’t communicate in their day to day lives with their partners, families and friends?
AL: Yeah, totally. With any sort of creative self expression you base it on your own experiences, especially the relationship I have with my own art. I basically put this together because I was having so many struggles with my own relationship with trying to express what I needed and what was going on with us, or to be more specific, what was going on with me. I’ve always used creativity to express myself but I suffer from addiction issues and for a long time I wasn’t expressing myself at all and just falling into that. When I started putting this together I felt like I needed something to work towards. I knew a bunch of women who are all artists and who all suffer from mental illness. While they made art, and they had goals for their art, they didn’t really know how to get it seen or to get any exposure or have something to work towards. Having something to work towards alleviates a lot of anxiety because it allows you to pour your energy into something tangible and real. It gives you a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel when you’re trying to express how you’re feeling within a medium. For women with mental illness, and I can only speak for myself and the women I know, it’s very easy to get disorganised with your thoughts and having something with very clear steps you are following to achieve something really helps with that.
SS: Do you think working on a show with a collective of people who share similar issues works as a kind of group therapy in a way?
AL: Yeah it’s definitely very therapeutic. Being able to sit down and just cancel out all the noise thats around you and just focus in on what you’re doing and what you’re making and just being productive is definitely therapeutic. You can feel really alienated when you suffer from some kind of mental issue so when you are working towards something like this. The idea of having your own space to create something which is important to you is really positive. It doesn’t necessarily make you feel less isolated but it does make you feel like you don’t always need someone around to get you 100% of the time. I’ve been in an out of therapy for a long time and I found that making my own art made me feel a lot better than talking to a professional. Being creative and being productive can really help with feelings of self worth. If you’re making something you believe in then you will feel better almost instantly.
SS: Tell me about the artists. What mediums are they working in, what are they doing?
AL: We have a really broad range of artists and we aren’t sticking to the one medium. I started with some illustrators, mainly myself, Ellie Rose, Leah Jean and Maddy Young, who is originally from Brisbane but is now based in Melbourne. We also have painters like Susanna Rose Sykes, Alice Amsel and we have photographers too like Alexis Aquino, Ellen Virgona and Naomi Lee Beveridge - they’re all women who have had their own struggles with anxiety and depression. It was really important to me when selecting the artists that I got artists from different backgrounds. I made sure we had women of colour, women who grew up in different states and in different areas so we could get a really broad range. The show is about the female experience in relation to being a young woman with a mental or emotional illness, so it was important to me to have women of lots of different backgrounds there so we could broaden the scope of the show.
SS: This has been put on in association with Sydney Grrrls Club and Grrrls To The Front Festival. Who are they? What are they all about?
AL: Sydney Grrrls Club was actually started by one of our artists, Naomi Lee Beveridge. It’s essentially a Facebook group which has attracted over two thousand members in the past year alone. It’s a safe space for young women to talk about what’s going on with their lives. Whether it be like recommendations for make up products to advice on sex work or raising suicide awareness - you can talk about anything on there. It’s turning into a really large group which is promoting female friendships and female relationships which is really important because we've just come out of an era of really glamorized ‘mean girling’ where women bully each other to feel better. I guess building a sisterhood can be fulfilling and can really help women, especially young women. You already feel alone enough when you come out of your teenage years, having somewhere you can go about what you think, what you know and where you can hear other peoples points of view if their going through the same stuff. Sydney Grrrls Club has been really helpful with that stuff. I've seen a lot of good come out of that group.
Grrrls To The Front Festival was started by the admins who run that group. It came out of an idea to make a festival which is not necessarily 100% for women but it is marketed at them and it’s in the female interest to make the festival work. There are ten fantastic women putting it together. They meet up every week and have dinner. They Skype people in if they’re too far away. They've booked a lot of really amazing artists and it’s on the 18th of October at the Red Rattler. It’s really positive and I guess it’s similar to what I’ve tried to do with this show in that if you do something positive and put it out there people are going to want to help out.
SS: This is your first event under the branding of Lucky Productions. In future will Lucky Productions focus on shows dealing with feminist issues or will it do anything?
AL: Lucky Productions did start off with this show. First and foremost I am a feminist so it started as a way to help women in the arts. That said in future I do plan on having shows with men in them and to ignore men to any sort of degree wouldn’t be beneficial to anyone. I want to put on a couple more shows in the near future. 'I Didn’t Want Flowers' is going to be a yearly event if I can. That being said I definitely have shows in the works that will involve men and shows which support young artists in general. In the CBD area we have three major art schools; SCA, COFA and National Art School who are churning out all these amazing talented young artists. Unfortunately many of these artists have to head overseas to have some kind of career. This is definitely not beneficial to the landscape in Australia. We should have more opportunities for young people to show their work. You shouldn’t have to be the most famous person on the internet to be recognised, it should be broader than that. I think with having shows about the experience of being an Australian young person is really important. Politically we are in some pretty conflicting times and there is a real sense of uncertainty. I know a lot of people who don’t really know what to do because there isn't much opportunity around, so I guess Lucky Productions is about letting artists show their work without having to pay for it. At most galleries in Sydney artists need to pay to show their work if they are lucky enough to be chosen in the first place, but the fact is young artists don’t have any money. The struggling artist stereotype is still very much alive and there needs to be more opportunities for young artists to show their work without having to spend money they don’t have.