Maisie Cousins: Rubbish, Dipping Sauce, Grass, Peonie, Bum

Maisie Cousins hyperreal compositions depict everyday objects from domestic environments transformed into hallucinogenic images; bright, bold and seductive.
This exhibition incorporates three bodies of work made between 2014 and 2019, each titled with an air of simplicity; Rubbish, Dipping Sauce, and Grass peonie bum. These titles ground the projects in the mundanity of the everyday and by doing so force the viewer to search for a con- nection between words and image, almost like a game.

Rubbish playfully investigates that which we discard, the products we consume and enjoy which are later tossed away. These ‘things’ be it flowers or food, serve a very specific purpose for a limited time. Items which were once luxuries are quickly past their prime and are mixed together on the rubbish pile. Losing their original form they simply become shades of colour and texture, as nature takes over mould forms on the surface, insects arrive and Cousins captures wild images of the decompo- sing compositions. Dipping Sauce blurs the line between the real and the surreal, depicting colourful food and unusual table setting in various states. Here Cousins defies all etiquette and tradition associated with western formal dining and instead turns the table into a canvas of colour and mess. Meal time is revealed in all its glory, half eaten and unquestionably enjoyed.

If Rubbish and Dipping Sauce show the aftermath of human consumption then Grass peonie bum firmly puts the human form in the centre of the frame. The female nude, often covered in gloss or emerging from liquid
is paired with props to create images which blur the boundaries between staged and performance. The seductive images are playful, hinting towards sexual fantasy and gender stereotypes while at the same time confronting them through Cousins blunt and direct representations.

The success of Cousins work comes through the clever juxtaposition of beauty and reality, creating intrigue and tension. Erotic gestures glossy and seductive at closer investigation also reveal that which is usually hidden, the perceived flaws of the human form with spots, hair and mess. Images which at first seem innocent are riddled with dark undertones. Prawn, butterfly and bee carcases are rendered in close up detail and vivid colour revealing the beauty and fragility of nature and the power dynamic evident in daily life.

Shot close up, this proximity between artist and subject is key to Cousin’s work. The artist feels like an active participant in all of her scenes, this is daily life, largely unedited depicted in hyper colour. As a viewer we often feel like the outsider, a voyeur who is late to the party and has missed out on all of the fun. However when printed large scale we begin to enter the images and by doing so entre the world Cousins has created, a kaleidoscope of decadence, gloss and decay.

Maisie Cousins was born in England in 1992, she lives and works in London.
Text by Shoair Mavlian, Director, Photoworks

The Exhibition is produced in collaboration with Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris.


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