Polly Nor: Exposing Women and Their Demons

Gaining huge attention on her Instagram @pollynor, this London-based illustrator is capturing the way women feel both inside and outside the digital sphere. By drawing women and their demons, Nor embraces womanhood and the anxieties that come with it. Through her hand-drawn illustrations filled in with pastels and bright colours, Nor has developed a very recognisable aesthetic. With over 1 million followers on Instagram, her digital presence has not only brought her a strong fan base but has allowed her to display her work directly with her audience.

Returning to Protein Studios after her exhibition It’s Called Art Mum, Look it Up in 2017, Nor displayed her latest collection of work under the title Airing my Dirty Laundry in Public. From the 12th to the 17th of October, the illustrations of Instagram were brought to life. The literal openness of these studios, with doors wide open between the street and the art, allowed for Nor’s work to be displayed as art should be, in an inclusive and unintimidating space. This reflects the artist’s openness within the digital sphere, creating relatable work that can reach more people outside of the confined walls of a conventional gallery.

You don’t know him like I do

From her first solo exhibition Sorry Grandma: An Exhibition of Obscene Illustrations in 2015 to her most recent work, a common theme shows women’s struggle for self-acceptance. Through a series of 39 illustrations, a story emerges, developed from an online collection Nor shared on Instagram earlier this year. This shows the tale of a woman who falls into the arms of a man-like devil and her journey of emotional recovery. The exhibition also contained two smaller print series, A Series of Nine and The Immaculate Conception, displaying women’s relationships with their inner demons. Following the blond protagonist through her illustrations, it becomes evident that this character represents Nor herself. By displaying her personal feelings and emotions openly, Nor has created work that has become relatable for so many women.

Deep Cleanse

Alongside her series of prints, the exhibition contained a live installation where Nor had created skin-like suits out of latex hung up on washing lines and a vanity displaying wigs, teeth and tools for surgical enhancement. As you entered this room signposted Laundry, Repairs and Alterations, this eerie display turned Nor’s drawings into a reality, embodying the idea that women constantly have to ‘put their face on’ and hide behind their appearance. Her work touches on the harsh realities that women face; expectations set by society, the pressures to look a certain way and the emotional toll of relationships. Therefore, the devils and demons within her female characters represent our internal voice and the frustrations, feelings and desires we all experience.

The crude nature of her drawings is accompanied by humour, representing her work as a dark and satirical portrayal of 21st-century women. Championing female sexuality through the dominance of her female characters, Nor’s exhibition is both inspiring and empowering. Just as it has resonated with over a million online followers, this exhibition leaves you with a sense of acceptance, as it shows that we’re all only human, hiding our own anxieties and inner emotions.

Follow @pollynor on Instagram or visit pollynor.com to see more of her work.

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