Maisie Cousins: grass, peony, bum

Maisie Cousins’ hyper-saturated, bawdy photograph and video works transport onlookers to an acid-house garden of Eden where female sexuality reigns free. At the artist’s first solo exhibition, ‘grass, peonie, bum’, co-curated by Mia Pfeifer and presented at TJ Boulting in London, visitors are greeted with a bowl of sticky glacé cherries and plastic cups of rosé wine (cause it’s always good to ensure that the refreshments exude the same vibe as the show itself).

Maisie Cousins ‘peony’ (2015). Courtesy the artist and TJ Boulting

Downstairs, the exhibition splits into two rooms: a white cube filled with prints featuring smashed kiwis, smeared red lipstick, a septum piercing, and slugs on breasts; and then a golden-floored, pink-walled cave where video works beam the achingly slow drip of nectar from orchids in neon yellow. The installation has been created in collaboration with celebrity perfumier Azzi Glasser (who boasts Helena Bonham Carter and Orlando Bloom amongst her clients). It was in this room I observed a trio of girls taking upskirt selfies in the mirrored floor: an act which responded so perfectly to the rebelliously sex-positive nature of the show that I wondered for a second whether it was a performance devised by Cousins herself. The space has a dreamlike quality: knowingly kitsch, brilliantly fantastical, and it oozes fun.

Maisie Cousins, ‘grass bum’ (2015). Courtesy the artist and TJ Boulting

A favourite work is ‘grass bum’ in which a wet, naked woman stands, backside to the camera, covered in flecks of grass as if returning triumphantly from a sexy fumble in a pond. A hand pulls one of the cheeks skyward to reveal a proud sprouting of pubic hair: a ‘fuck you’ to the bald nethers of magazine editorials and pornography.

“I observed a trio of girls taking upskirt selfies in the mirrored floor: an act which responded so perfectly to the rebelliously sex-positive nature of the show”

Elsewhere, ‘finger’ shows a red-stained digit thrust into the centre of a blooming pink flower, flecked all over with an ambiguous red liquid which practically screams ‘period blood!’. The association between female sexuality and flowers is well-noted and nods especially to the work of Georgia O’Keefe (who, as it happens, denied any erotic interpretation of her paintings) but Cousins work is so self-aware and revels in so much silliness (one work is titled ‘bumhole’) that any trace of potential cliché withers away.

Maisie Cousins ‘finger’ (2015). Courtesy the artist and TJ Boulting
Maisie Cousins, ‘mouth’ (2015). Courtesy the artist and TJ Boulting

It’s this, the celebratory nature of Cousins’ work, that really allures: the sparkling focus on all the messy, squelching, leaking parts of the human body, annihilating any idea that existing as a sexual being can or should be a quiet, clean affair.

‘grass, peonie, bum’ runs until 17 June at TJ Boulting, London. You can also see the artist’s work, alongside fellow photographer Juno Calypso’s, as part of the gallery’s presentation at Photo London

Maisie Cousins ‘bonnet’ (2015). Courtesy the artist and TJ Boulting
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