Prue & Honey
Gazing At A Female World
For the last few years 'female gaze' has been a buzzword that has literally spawned a new worldwide creative movement led by young visionaries like Maisie Cousins, Juno Calypso, and Petra Collins.
Artists that have emerged to take back the reigns and highlight the essence and beauty of all things female, without all the ingrained hypersexualization that we’ve come to know. Down in Australia, a new twenty-something art duo titled Prue x Honey have emerged as part of the scene as a powerful new voice ready to tell the world their own brand of vivid and intimate art.
Prue Stent and Honey Long met in high school, admittedly not too impressed with each other initially, but grew to find partnership in a mutual artistic appreciation and vision. 5 years of working together have seen them meld together photography, performance art and sculpture on an evolving journey of exploration of themes of femininity, beauty, and the body. Their work has garnered international acclaim, leading to a project with Italian powerhouse Gucci as well as exhibitions from Zurich to LA. While their images all have the seal of millennial approval in Instagram-friendly hues of pink and the beautiful natural landscapes on their doorstep in Sydney, it’s the fascination with all things slightly grotesque that forces you to pay attention. It’s about dealing with the lesser celebrated idiosyncrasies of the female form that reflect the more genuine realities of being a woman. Prue and Honey are redefining beauty and we’re loving it.
How did you two meet?
PS: We actually met in high school. We sat next to each other in math class but didn’t talk to each other for about a year. But I always admired Honey’s doodling. It was basically through a mutual friend that we started working together and found out we both had similar interests.
You both have different strengths and your work together stretches across a number of disciplines; photography, performance art and sculpture etc. But throughout your body of work, this creative voice and concept is very consistent. Is that conscious?
HL: I think it kind of naturally evolved over time. We both have similar ideas and influences so we know what we want to do and what we like and it goes from there.
It’s interesting because in interviews you talk really assuredly about the meaning and context behind your work, so I’m wondering if you just set out to make something beautiful or this meaning is always an inherent part?
PS: I think as Honey was saying it’s just something that kind of comes together. We don’t really talk about conceptual ideas when we are working.
Where do you look for inspiration?
PS: Well a lot of the landscapes we use are places where we grew up. Something we love to do is go to flea markets to find props and work out how to use them in different ways to see them in a new and interesting light.
HL: We’re also inspired by some older Australian artists, like Pat Brassington, Claire Lambe and the photographer Polly Borland.
"I wouldn’t say [Australia] is the most supportive place for emerging art."
What’s the art scene like in Australia? Do you feel like your experience growing up there has influenced your work?
HL: Australia is a huge place and our experience of any art scene has been limited to Sydney or Melbourne. I wouldn’t say it’s the most supportive place for emerging art but at the same time, it feels both physically and culturally like there is a lot of space to move in and explore which is really encouraging. That has definitely influenced our work a lot, this feeling of unexplored territory. Growing up in a place with such wide expanses of land around you in a colonial culture that has taken so many of its cues from America and England leaves a lot to acknowledge and uncover.
We have never been that connected to a particular scene but have been really lucky to have close friends around us also making work that resonates with us and so you spur each other on and that intimate group feeling is very supportive. This year we’ve worked on some really great projects that have broken us out of our bubble a bit more and we are really excited to start engaging with and contributing to the wider Australian arts scene.
I think it’s the contrast between this slightly ‘grotesque’ aspect, highlighting different body parts and contortions, set against the amazing landscapes and colour palette that makes your images so interesting. What makes an image ‘beautiful’ for you?
HL: I think anything with a certain fragility or tenderness is beautiful. Something that is decaying or fleeting like a movement, that makes you appreciate it. It’s something you want to hold on to or keep looking at.
PS: Yeah, I mean, beauty is such a difficult thing to define but anything that draws you in or has an attraction. Lots of things can be beautiful.
You’ve said in previous interviews that you have this fascination with slightly grotesque subject matter. Have you encountered people that don’t really understand what you’re trying to do?
HL: Actually something that we’ve been criticised for is maybe being too safe because even though some of the things that we focus on might be viewed as vulgar the images are always done in a pretty palatable way so the overall look isn’t challenging, and I get that. But we aren’t trying to make things that are challenging or shocking.
What’s the weirdest response you’ve had to your work?
HL: We got an email from a guy wanting to recruit us into his plans for a new world order which would run on a time-based currency system and not a monetary one. That was pretty interesting.
"We got an email from a guy wanting to recruit us into his plans for a new world order which would run on a time-based currency system and not a monetary one."
You’ve amassed a really huge following on Instagram, which is such an essential platform for emerging artists and photographers now, but a lot of people have different views on whether or not it helps or hinders. What’s your take on it?
PS: Well it’s definitely been a huge help to us, it’s how Gucci got in touch with us. The Internet has been a really great platform for putting our work out there and opened up some amazing opportunities but I do agree that it is oversaturated. I think as an artist it pushes you to create more work offline, in the physical space. I definitely wouldn’t want to rely on Instagram.
I wanted to talk about the Gucci project because that’s an amazing collaboration. Do you want to become more involved in the fashion industry? A lot of your work, especially the Moulding series, uses materials or fabric as a way to express or constrain the body, so I can see some crossover.
PS: Well Gucci was great because they basically just gave us free reign to do whatever we wanted. There is some similarity and I think we definitely are inspired by a lot of fashion techniques, like making our own costumes and props.
This term the ‘female gaze’ has become such a buzzword in art and photography over the last year, and you are definitely labelled as part of that. Another photographer often mentioned as part of this is Maisie Cousins who we interviewed last year. Do you think it is a distinct artistic style or more a movement in response to changing attitudes of how women are represented in media?
PS: That’s so funny, I was just texting Maisie. We met through Instagram.
HL: Right, it’s very interesting being associated with this distinct kind of feminism that has become very buzzy in the last few years. When we started making work together we were 18 and didn’t necessarily think of our work being ‘feminist’, we just knew that it felt good whatever we were doing and struggled to put it into words. I think still do. I definitely don’t think the female gaze should be thought of as a distinct artistic style because it’s such a complex idea and encapsulates such a broad range of experiences. It is exciting that it has emerged as a new way of looking at things and as a reaction to the male gaze. I hope that it continues to be expanded upon and examined within popular culture and doesn’t stay tied to any fixed idea of what female experience is or should be.
Would you say there is a subtle tension there because your work is personal but is expected to speak for all women at the same time?
PS: Yes and this is something we’ve also received comments on because we do tend to shoot ourselves or people we are really close to, like family members. I want to make it clear that we are not at all laying claim to represent all women in our work because that’s impossible. It’s mainly based on our own experience.
HL: Yeah, it is something that is so complex and of course we are aware that we are two white Australian girls who have had a pretty privileged lifestyle, so we are definitely not trying to portray one single image of what it means to be female.
I guess because everything is so highly politicised at the moment that people are going to look for a political message in every domain, including your work. Do you feel a certain responsibility as artists to represent women in a way that adds to the current dialogue?
PS: Totally. Having said what we just said, one of the things we are definitely trying to do more of now is shoot different types of women and just listen to what they have to say because I think that’s really important, especially in representation.
"We are aware that we are two white Australian girls who have had a pretty privileged lifestyle, so we are definitely not trying to portray one single image of what it means to be female."
Is the #metoo debate as prolific in Australia as it is here? How do you think you can respond to that?
PS: Yes it’s crazy here. I don’t want to respond to it online because there are just so many different views and opinions, but it definitely adds to our work and makes us want to think more about how we represent women.
I read an interesting article recently on how nudity is seen as a form of female empowerment, for example the Victoria’s Secret show, but actually serves consumerist goals, so really it’s still just the fact that ‘sex sells’. I wanted to get your views on this because nudity is a recurring theme in your work but not in a sexualised way.
HL: I think just using the term ‘empowering’ makes it seem as if in order for a woman to do something like that it has to be justified by whether or not it’s empowering for them. In our own work it’s empowering to deal with nudity simply because we aren’t even thinking about it – we are just doing it as a part of the work we are creating.
PS: I definitely go between on whether or not it’s empowering, but when we shoot it’s either ourselves, or people we are close to so it’s always a collaborative discussion – it’s not just us telling people to get naked for the sake of it. Maybe sometimes. But on the whole we don’t really think about who’s going to be looking at our images or stuff like that.
Currently your work is being exhibited at the Fahey/Klein gallery in LA as part of a group show called Future Feminine. Do you plan to take your work further internationally?
PS: Yes, this is our first proper year of exhibiting internationally. We actually just had another show in Zurich at the Nicola Von Senger gallery and we have another one coming up in Madrid. We also just got signed in Australia by Arc One gallery in Melbourne, so we’ll have a solo show with them in May.
Great, so you guys will be working together on new things in 2018?
PS: Yes, we are going to be making a whole new body of work together for our solo show. It’s exciting.
Future Feminine is on now at the Fahey/Klein gallery in Los Angeles.
PS: This just blew me away when I saw it. It was also a bonding thing for Honey and I because we both loved Japanese anime.
Favourite Soundtrack When Shooting
PS: I listen to music when I’m editing but we normally shoot on location. Honey do you want to answer this one so I don’t give away what I listen to?
HL: I love a bit of Sean Paul.
Favourite Location To Shoot
Clovelly Cliffs, Sydney
PS: It’s gotta be Clovelly Cliffs. It’s right behind my parents’ house. We’ve probably shot there like 100 times.
Favourite City To Visit
PS: Is it lame to say Sydney?
HL: We’ve both been to Mexico City separately and loved it there.
Favourite Instagram Account
@the.lepidopterist / @britneyspears
PS: I love this one called The Lepidopterist. It’s just loads of pictures and videos of caterpillars and butterflies.
HL: I just love Britney Spears.