Perth artist Mow Skwoz’s new exhibition, The Wire Mother, opens at The Bird this Monday, July 14. We spoke to Skwoz about her repulsive but fascinating work, which combines Cronenbergian body horror with a keen eye for composition and colour.
From an early age, Mow Skwoz was drawn to the macabre and unsettling – a trait she inherited from her father. “I was always drawing when I was a kid and in high school. My dad drew a lot of creepy weird drawings so I used to copy him when I was little.”
Her interest in art took her to TAFE, but formal study was a poor fit. Finding tattooing suited her more, she apprenticed to the needle for a time – “I learned a lot about design from fellow tattooists.” – before turning to painting some three years ago.
Since then, she’s had two solo shows – The Wire Mother is her third – and has participated in a number of group exhibitions, including Public at Form Gallery earlier this year. If you’ve seen her work, all flesh tones and viscera, you would remember it.
“It’s always hard for me to describe my work for some reason!” Skwoz tells us. “Um, I guess creepy, unsettling a little surreal. I love painting trauma and discomfort, as well as a little gore here and there. I take influences from many things. Art wise, a lot of illustrators and graphic artists such as Charles Burns, Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, those kinda weirdos, as well as painters. I really love the work Charlie Immer right now and also a lot of realism too, like Jeremy Geddes.”
Music also plays a big part in Skwoz’s personal microculture. “I’ve been enjoying a lot of Throbbing Gristle, Swans, Butthole Surfers, The Fall, all who are great at making one feel uncomfortable and a bit sick. I’d like to get to that point some day. Also, a lot of my friends are great artists and musicians, so they are ever so inspiring! It makes me want to keep up!”
On the subject of this particular exhibition, Skwoz says “I wanted to try something a bit different and make myself paint out of my comfort zone. I’ve used a lot of pastels and bright colours for the backgrounds, and I’ve tried to manipulate the figures, blending them with geometric shapes and grotesque objects. There will be a bunch of new paintings available at the show, as well as some framed biro drawings that I like to do now and then. Also, as a kind of last minute fun activity, I decided to put out a 10” one sided vinyl single, with some companions of mine (Void Manes and Kevin Rutmanis) as sort of a soundtrack to the paintings in the show. They had be messing about making weird electronic and organic sounds and stuff and then I added some stuff and Kevin sort of just put it all together. All the covers are handmade, and featuring prints of some of my work. So its like a print and a weird ambient noisy mess!”