Fifty (Seven) Shades Of Pink That Aren't About Being Pretty

GRAPHIC WARNING: This story contains some images that might be unsettling for some readers.

What you need to know
  • Tania Browitt has never really enjoyed the colour pink, but she has spent a lot of time pondering over it. 

Tania Browitt has never really enjoyed the colour pink, but she has spent a lot of time pondering over it.

It's actually, for one, a reddish hue, structured by 16 predefined ranges from the pure neutrality of white to an impassioned red -- and everything in between.

But we don't always see it like that.

Pink: the colour of girls.

"I think the biggest misconception is that the function of the colour has been preconditioned as a marker of gender, sexuality and female identity," the Sydney artist and curator told ten daily.

"You don't need to look much further than the magazines to see how it has been programmed into the female psyche as a particular hue.

"Cognitively, it's so much more than that.

This history of how pink became a feminine colour has been well-documented over the years -- as has its evolution, as notable women like Hillary Clinton began to use pink in more calculated ways.

Seven diverse female artists in Sydney are now using their practice to explore its many meanings and contradictions.

Browitt has curated the show, simply called Pink at her gallery 220 Creative Space in Kings Cross, casting the colour in all of its shades -- from calming and supportive, to mischievous, sensual and, in many ways, dark.

"This show isn't about being pretty. We're trying to break some of that down," Browitt said.

This is the case for featured artist Kirsten Drewes, who uses the deeply stereotypical and nostalgic image of a Barbie doll to reveal a much darker reality.

Snowwhite, 2018 by Kirsten Drewes. Image: Supplied

Brewes says she loves working with pink, for its "soft cultures and bodily forms", but "wouldn't wear a pink dress".

Among her bodies of work are sculptures that use "pleasurable" felt material and actual plastic dolls to challenge the fairy tales -- Rapunzel, Snow White, Princess and the Pea, to name a few -- often fed to girls from a young age.

"The dolls themselves are intensely nostalgic, but on the other hand, they are the ideal of female beauty; that when you're beautiful, you'll be acknowledged and loved," she told ten daily.

"These females are protected, but on the other hand, they're imprisoned. Their faces are covered, and their poses are almost tortured."

The Golden Cage, 2018, by Kirsten Drewes. Image: Supplied

They're intense, and for some, may draw confronting memories.

Brewes, who is one year into a PHD into "psychological resonances into soft form", said it is up to the viewer to make their own assumptions.

"Barbie dolls are changing, but the representational form in this show is that there is a deformity there. For me, Kirsten is pushing a message of violence towards women, there's no doubt about it," said Browitt.

"It's disturbing to look at, which pushes back on us."

But the show isn't entirely dark; there are deeply romantic drawings, playful photo montages and calming sunset landscapes that "attract and repel".

These artists know each other, and yet they are intensely diverse.

"My aim is always to create a synergy," Browitt said.

"I was hoping to curate something that could put itself on its feet as strong, vulnerable and a deep show of expression."

The Velvet Blush Of Sunrise Shames Even The Brightest Of Stars, 2018, by Melinda Marshman. Image: Supplied

In the current climate, Browitt views art as a chance for conversation and awareness, particularly among female artists.

"I think art can be intensely empowering. Now we are seeing women speak up and that's important to ensure that whatever has been suppressed is being expressed," she said.

You leave the exhibit with a velvet blush of sunrise, as artist Melinda Marshman explores nature's pink from shades of peach to pale magenta: a symbol of unconditional love.

The Pink exhibition was shown at  220 Creative Space Gallery in Kings Cross.

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Contact the author: ebrancatisano@networkten.com.au. 

Featured image: Getty