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Debut Solo Show Diary: Volume 1 - Introduction

So, I guess the cat's out of the bag now. I've got my first solo show booked in! Absolute scenes. I can't tell you how chuffed I am to get this opportunity, and it's a credit to Edit Gallery in Greenwich for being just the right kind of crazy in supporting me with this project. I figured, seeing as this is my first show, and you only really get your first solo show once, I should document my journey in prepping, creating, and launching this thing - so here we are, my Debut Solo Show Diary.

Before I dive into the process, photos, and things like that, I think it's best to start right at the beginning, as some of you might not know what this show is about - and that's fine, you will after reading this entry.

This exhibition is all about my series 'Just a Nipple'. Which, in a nutshell, is a series that delves into the realm of art censorship and its paradoxical treatment of the human body on social media. Well, at least that's how it started out. My inspiration for this piece kicked off when I had some art removed from Instagram with no reason provided and no way to discuss it with someone at Meta. They didn't like it, or their algorithm didn't like it, and that was that - the piece in question is a portrait of Kurt Cobain with the quote 'Everyone is Gay', lyrics taken from the Nirvana song 'All Apologies', not offensive in the slightest (you'd think). Then, some art friends of mine had their work removed, also non-offensive pieces, and some artists even had their accounts completely shut down, thus cutting off vital life-support to their followers and business. What really rubbed salt into the wounds of this nonsensical treatment of artists was the fact that all kinds of nefarious content was still parading itself freely and uncontested on Instagram. Twerking and grinding its proverbial bits all over my device screen without the slightest whiff of decent context.

I got a bit pissy about all of these things and wanted to kick back at Instagram a little, poke the bear, if you will. And that's when I stumbled upon the humble nipple. The nipple has been subjected to many absurdities in the past, and for some reason, still is. From the free the nipple campaign, to women facing negativity when feeding their baby in public, to even the double standards of a man's nipple being fine on social media, but a woman's not. It felt as if this benign little nub of ours was just the right kind of cheekiness to prod the social media giants with - and with that, I began to create.

The creation took a few forms until I found an execution I found hilarious, for its preposterous simplicity but also its comically graphical aesthetic. I wanted to create something that looked genderless, so Instagram couldn't decipher if it was offensive or not (offensive being feminine). And I wanted it to sit without any context - as how can something that innocent be lewd or graphic if there is no context to frame it as such? It was simply 'Just a Nipple'.

So there you have it, the start of the concept, born from defiance. But that's not where the concept stayed. As with most things in life, things evolve and how people perceive art is what makes art a really interesting space from a conceptual level. It was when I took my Nipples to the East Art Fair, an annual art fair, (that's sometimes bi-annual at Spitalfields Market) with me, that I noticed a trend amongst the general public.

I always knew as a concept it would split opinions. There would always be people that would turn their nose up at it, just as there would be people that would get it and love it. But there was a third category of reaction that was really interesting. The type of person that loved it, wanted it, but couldn't because of what other people or someone in their life would think. This phenomenon isn't exclusive to 'Just a Nipple' either. The more people I spoke to, the more I began to hear tales of artwork that normally stands proud in households, only to be moved or hidden when certain guests or family members visit. The pieces in question wouldn't even be offensive or taboo - in most cases the art would be by mainstream, popular artists, you probably even have some of their work yourself!

It was at this point it became clear that my campaign needed to shift focus to us, the people, and our attitudes towards freedom of expression just as much as it was a protest against the absurd control from tech giants - in fact, probably more so. This saw me take my art to the streets in a bid to break down barriers of expression and desensitise sensitivity towards art. 'Just a Nipple', from its defiant starting point, became about allowance and a reminder of how we moderate and censor ourselves or our own tastes to appease others - and we absolutely shouldn't. We can freely express ourselves if we choose to, if we allow ourselves. Because if we want to change the behaviours of big tech, we need to start by changing our own behaviours in how we moderate ourselves.

So, that's the story behind the concept, a rather wordy one, so thank you for showing enough interest to get to the end! Stay tuned for more diary entries, where I will be documenting the stages of making the art for the show and setting it up - as well as any other little nuggets that pop up! It's going to be fun, and I can't wait to share it all with you. ✌🏼