Interview with artist Molly Hankinson
Your space or mine is an initiative organised by Jack Arts. The main aim of this itinerant project, which has seen the participation of nine cities across the UK, is to bring art to the streets through poster campaigns, transforming the urban landscape into a free and inclusive outdoor art gallery accessible to everyone. In these uncertain times, when art invades the streets, it creates a positive and engaging space within the city. Glasgow-based visual artist Molly Hankinson collaborated with Jack Arts in this project, producing 16 digital artworks which can be seen on a site takeover in Gorbals, at 121 Eglinton Street.
Molly studied painting and printmaking at Glasgow School of Art and now has a permanent residency at SWG3 Studio Warehouse. Her style is characterised by bold colours, celebrating womxn and non-binary people reclaiming their space by expressing confidence and vitality as a result of their regained power of self-representation. The 16 artworks of the series can be read as both individual statements of female independence and as a group portrait of shared experiences, achievements and struggles. Digital art gives Molly the possibility of combining contemporary portrayals of femininity and the taboos related to body and sexuality. As art critic Adrian Burnham pointed out, “her works are not only the result of closely observing her subjects – she also listens to their stories and dreams, their challenges and triumphs.” The Scottish identity is another element incorporated in Molly’s vibrant artworks through the representation of both famous and less-known places in Glasgow.
The Glasgow Guardian: What inspired you to create your artworks for Your space or mine and what are the movements or artists that influenced you most in this specific project?
Molly: All 16 pieces were selected by me and they are all pre-existing works. I love artists like Alice Neel, Henri Matisse and David Hockney to name a few, but I also take inspiration from the large community of contemporary artists and illustrators on Instagram. Glasgow has such an exciting art scene and being able to have good conversations with likeminded people is just as valuable.
GG: The provocative title of the project directly confronts the viewer with the dilemma at the heart of your artwork: whose space is it? How do you think women can reclaim their own space today?
Molly: I think we have been led to believe that “good women'' are silent and do not rock the boat too much because that apparently takes away our “desirability”, and I think that this is one of the main things that womxn are still scared of when they want to take up space or voice their opinions. I have been guilty of this in the past too; everyone is scared of what people are going to think of them to a certain degree, but rising above that, even in little ways, can be very empowering.
GG: Your space or mine is a celebration of womxn and their re-appropriation of space. Is there a particular message you want to convey through this series?
Molly: I think all my work is about womxn owning and being comfortable in their own spaces. I suppose that there is a self-assurance and a confidence that everyone lacks from time to time; that is what I hope people can take from my work.
GG: Through digital portraiture, you are able to give strength, character and self-confidence to each womxn you represent. Why did you choose digital portraiture as your medium and when did you start producing it?
Molly: I started working digitally in the final year of my degree as a process and accompaniment for my larger oil paintings. It was not until I graduated that I began to realise that these skills were something I could further develop and make a living off of as an illustrator, as well as creating more accessible art for people, for them to be able to buy and enjoy artworks that still felt authentic to my practice.
GG: In your series, you chose to depict confident womxn that feel comfortable both within their own bodies and in specific places outside their bodies. How and why do you think your art is able to create an impact in female body positivity and foster confidence in the moment of ‘‘being’’ in a place?
Molly: I hope that my work breaks down these taboos surrounding body image and society’s expectations of what femininity should look like. Though I am still learning, this is not something that can be achieved overnight; it is all about unlearning those unconscious biases and ensuring that issues are raised in a constructive way. It is also important to remind ourselves that body positivity does not necessarily always mean having body hair or not conforming to standard images. Whilst those things encourage body positivity for some and it is important for these things to become normal, I think that more generally it is about loving yourself and being comfortable in your own skin, whatever that means for you.
GG: The subjects in your series are inscribed within a specific setting, either indoors or outdoors. How do you decide the setting? Could it be said that the location itself is not only a decorative element but rather a crucial part of the artwork that facilitates the viewer’s understanding of the message you want to convey?
Molly: I have always been drawn to interiors and domestic settings and the idea of women re-claiming these spaces. After historically being tied to them, it is something that I try to subvert by transforming them into powerful spaces that reflect the people who reside in them. More recently, I have been looking more into outdoor scenarios too. I think this has come out of my interest in botanical symbolism and gardens as outdoor spaces which gives me more scope to explore these concepts.
GG: The womxn you include in Your space or mine showcases and celebrates diversity. Do you think that contemporary art is becoming more inclusive or is the need for inclusivity still understated?
Molly: I think this idea of inclusivity has only really come into the mainstream of popular culture in the last five to ten years, so sometimes it is hard to tell what is genuine and what is not, but the important thing is to ensure that it does not become a fad and goes out of fashion in a couple of years. Inclusivity is essential to development and change, so needs to be considered in every facet of our lives. I try to ensure that when people look at my work they do not feel excluded, because everyone’s ideas and experiences of womxnhood should be just as valued and celebrated.