Olek is an artist, whose work is currently showing in a small gallery open in Shoreditch named Tony’s Gallery; when I say small I mean it consists of one room. Her art is immediately fascinating though; the gallery is essentially a room covered in brightly coloured knitting/crochet; before I went inside I had to put a pair of blue plastic bags over my shoes, as the floor is also covered in a layer of knitting. As is typical of my character I forgot to take them off when I left the shop, resulting in my looking like some kind of neo-hipster trying to make a statement about waste and society. Or just a forgetful twat.
Anyway, the most important aspect of the gallery was that the walls were decorated with ‘paintings’ made out of knitting, each of which were flamboyantly pink and purple, and depicted crudely sexual text messages, such as “I can still feel U wrapped around my … [I’m sure you get the idea]” They were particularly effective because the conspicuous colour schemes made the writing difficult to read at first, which made the explicitness of the message – once deciphered – more arresting.
In 2009, Olek said in an interview that crochet is like a relationship, both in its complexity/variety, and in that “the connections are stronger as one fabric as opposed to separate strands, but, if you cut one, the whole thing will fall apart.” The words depicted in her artworks are all texts sent to her by previous boyfriends, making it clear that not only is she making some kind of commentary on relationships in general, but it’s an overtly personal statement, so the question is: what statement is she trying to make?
The most obvious answer would rotate around feminism, but the work inspired me to notice another perspective. All of the artworks are soft, pink, and pretty, but when looked at with any focussed perspective reveal themselves to be dominated by sexuality, in its most bare form. Could this be a metaphor for a kind of relationship? At some point in life, different people start having relationships that are fixated around sex, in some form, be it any of the four bases. They go out together, and there are all the formalities of a relationship, and they act affectionate, but eventually it all has to lead to sex.
I should stress I’m not talking about relationships as a whole at all; it’s pointless to be sceptical of the ideas of intimacy and passion, because to truly understand them is to accept they exist, and to deny their existence is simply to remain ignorant as to what it’s like to experience them.
Ultimately the point I’m building to is; how can there be any difference between a casual relationship, and the kind of relationship typically graced with the tag “friends with benefits”? When a guy invites a girl out with him to town or something, pays for her and looks after her, and then expects to receive some kind of sexual experience in return, what kind of relationship is that? How can either of the two be certain that the other is actually feeling some kind of connection building between the two that eventually climaxes in physical love, or if they’re just sexually frustrated and using their partner for their own ends?
The only conclusion I can come to is that it’s very hard to be sure what someone’s intentions are in a relationship, if their affections are genuine and if the lyrics they quote actually remind them of the person they’re talking to (I mean this in reference to both girls and boys) unless you actually trust them. People usually aren’t honest about what they want out of a relationship, but they should be. Dishonesty, or even thoughtlessness towards others can lead to them emotionally investing too much/not enough and getting hurt; it’s just far too easy to start putting all your faith in some kind of unspoken chemistry, that for your partner is merely part of the business of dating. Maybe this is the reason that teenage girls are often so sceptical of boyfriends, especially when not their own.
[If you’re interested in the art, check out http://tonysgallery.com the gallery’s only on until the 26th of February, 2012, and is pretty easy to find, it’s very close to Shoreditch station. I’d give you more directions but I’m sure you have google maps or something so can manage it yourself. The photography in this post was taken by my mate Angus Dymoke, check out his blog http://angusdymoke.tumblr.com/]