Spatiality and gender identity are intricately intertwined. How someone presents themself in social settings and whether they fit into the rigid binary expectations of other people sharing the space with them determine the way they go through life. For transgender, non-binary, and intersex individuals, fitting in a specific space is a question of life and death. But at some point, everyone needs a place to unwind and drop the weight of societal limitations. A new series of paintings by the emerging British artist Erin Holly invites the audience into those intimate imagined places, showcasing them from new perspectives. Holly’s solo exhibition, A Trans Arrangement of the Painted Space, will open at JD Malat Gallery in London on November 16.
JD Malat Gallery Presents a Solo Show of the British Artist Erin Holly
A lot of Erin Holly’s works focus on architecture and interior design. Inspired by vintage lifestyle magazines, the British artist uses living spaces, which appear real but were actually artificially staged for pictures and advertisements, as a reference for her semi-fictionalized rooms. One of her earlier works, a mural picturing a bathroom from above, turns the surface of a building’s wall into a place for public discussion of transgender inclusion and rights. Similarly, albeit now in a smaller-scale gallery setting, works featured in A Trans Arrangement of the Painted Space explore how transgender individuals embody their living spaces.
The bathrooms, lounges, and studies in Holly’s paintings look nothing like the perfectly designed rooms in catalogs. Instead, they convey a deep sense of personal and intimate connection with the human who inhabits them. Holly’s colorful pieces depict rooms without strict borders — walls and household objects spill into each other and blend together, creating a surrealist picture. The artist presents the direct opposite of slick, gender-conforming images of a perfect life advertised to the viewers by 1950s manuals and magazines.
As Trans Awareness Week approaches, we must question the way the public sphere treats people who do not conform to the societal expectations of gender. Erin Holly sheds light on this pressing issue, showing that art truly has the potential to change the existing oppressive structures. This is the first time the British artist is exhibiting her work in a gallery setting, so the upcoming solo show is definitely worth checking out.
A Trans Arrangement of the Painted Space will be on view at JD Malat Gallery from November 16 through December 9, 2023. You can visit the show at 30 Davies Street in London.