Polly Nor is a freelance illustrator born and raised in London. Her work is a representation of real girls of 21st century as they come: fun-loving, unabashedly sexual, and doing whatever the hell they want—whether that is hanging out with devils, being devils, lazily sex surfing, or having some fun with lava lamps. Her highly sexualised, bold illustrations are satirical observations of societal issues tackling the themes of gender, equality and sexuality. Her prompts to question the ubiquitous male vision (of women),” and offers an “alternative view on sexuality, relationships and emotions from a modern-day female perspective.” she says “the devil sight in my art represents different ideas and stories, usually as a figment of the female’s imagination, a manifestation of her frustrations, emotions and desires.”
She derives her inspiration for her artwork from “funny texts, angry tweets, memes and selfies” as well as “girl chat.” She graduated from Loughborough University in 2011, and says that her illustrations often begin with a “line of dialogue or image in mind” and then puts her vision to paper, and then digitally colours it. When it comes to the subject of her work, she says, “If you were to write a piece about your feelings on gender issues you would have shit loads of comments calling you out over every detail and people writing insults at you in capital letters YOU ARE SO WRONG U FEMNAZI, I BET YOU ARE FAT, NOBODY WANTS TO HAVE SEX WITH YOU – GET OVER IT. People take what they want from an image but words are very concrete.”
Most of her work delves into sex, and she thinks that “sex is a subject matter that everybody can relate to and connect with on a very intimate level. The ease with which we are now able to access—increasingly hardcore—porn has become formative in the sex lives of young people, complicating an already very complex issue.” Norton talks about the mercurial nature of sex and its relationship with people, and blames “an industry that is created almost entirely by men, for male pleasure alone.” This “warped” representation of sex and what relationships should be like, she feels teaches young girls that “they are submissive, sexual objects for men to leer over, use, and control, and led to believe that their value lies wholly in how sexy they are.” Norton is aware though, of the double standard that exists, when it comes to women owning the agency to their own sexuality; “To make things even more confusing, our society also teaches females that being too sexual is shameful and vulgar. We should look available, but not too easy; we should be flirty, but not too forward; we should have sex, but not with too many people and so on.” These “conflicting pressures” from society and a 21st century young woman’s reaction to it is what Norton aims to depict in her artwork.
When asked about what all the devils in her work symbolise, she says they “represent the darker side of my characters.” She mentions her father, saying she “subconsciously inherited the devils from him,” since he makes a lot of devil masks and giant devil puppets, with his studio full of them. Norton’s style of art is particular to her, and her inspiration stems from a variety of sources. “I collect old images of Halloween, as well as vintage devil posters and tattoo art. Other than that I’m really into Japanese Shunga [erotica] and spend way too much time on the Internet, which has really influenced my work. Not to sound like a total creep, but my phone is full of screenshots of other people’s selfies, memes and break-up tweets. I draw a lot of inspiration from them.”
The primary demographic her work is about is the teenage female crowd, and Norton thinks it’s “really cool when random teenage girls comment ‘ME’ or ‘SAME’ when I post my illustrations online, because they are totally meant to be them. I’m glad they get it and can relate. Although having said that nothing can beat an occasional ‘OMG WTF IS THIS?!’”
Norton feels that the art scenario is doing great not just in terms of London, but all over the world, and credits social media with helping artists get the word out on their work. She feels that Instagram, especially, has become a really useful platform for creatives to self publish non-commercial work and get noticed.
This young artist just completed an exhibition at London’s 71A Gallery, titledSorry Grandma . While her own Grandma hasn’t asked her for a print for the mantelpiece yet, Norton still stays hopeful that her cool grandma will ask her for one. Maybe one day.
All Image Source: PollyNor