The idea of what it takes to be a well-rounded woman in the Western world is becoming more distorted, feminism is something that has been significant for decades, but it seems it could be more relevant than ever.  Denia Kazakou addresses why this is in her latest artwork ‘Frustration’.

Denia Kazakou’s path to becoming an artist is an interesting one, she started off moving to England to study Biomedical Sciences, it was then she realised that her interests lay within studying the human body. Kazakou went on to study Fine Art at UEL, where she combined her fascination with the human body and passion for human rights to create her work.

Throughout her studies Kazakou explored different ways of creating artwork and moved from canvas to creating installations. For her final degree show Denia Kazakou created an installation piece titled ‘Frustration’. The description taken from Kazakou’s site states that the objective of the installation was an:

Attempt to convey the pressure women encounter in modern image based society, based on personal observations and experiences. The stress of maintaining a prosperous career whilst simultaneously perpetuating the classic female attributes that society insists upon them, such as the conservation of unrealistic physical appearance and composure. The exploding enraged plasma at the base of the installation represents what exists beyond these superficial elements.

Upon looking at the piece it was apparent the fragments of plasma represented a woman/women, specifically someone who had succumb to the pressures of being a woman and had exploded from the unrealistic expectations and insecurities that women develop through the mass media. This is through the projection overly sexualised and unrealistic ideals of beauty onto women as well as the conflictions of what a woman’s role is in today’s society.

The selected objects that were hanging make a significant impact, effectively communicating Kazakou’s message that the demands of self-image for women come from all angles. For example a pair of high heels demonstrate the pressure to look good as well as symbolising female sexuality and sensuality, because of course women wear shoes to look taller and accentuate their legs. A whisk – indicating the pressures of running a house – the image of a woman’s place is in the kitchen and a 1950’s housewife spring to mind. This also makes me think of Martha Rosler’s film piece ‘Semiotics of the Kitchen’ (1975), a video where the artist uses hand kitchen utensils to represent how the objects are only extensions of ones self, in the same way that Kazakou’s work is trying to signify that the items used in her work are superficial and irrelevant.

‘Frustration’ is a commentary on the very relevant topic of women trying to balance a career and home. There are more women than ever before with careers and high profiled jobs, and there is evidence to show that more and more women are having children later in life so they too, like their male counterparts, can pursue a profession. The problem is that many women feel the pressure to also maintain an impeccable house and have children before a certain age; otherwise feeling as though they have failed.

Personally the most alarming burden on women is the one that we all have with ourselves in terms of image. In today’s Western world, women are constantly bombarded with images of females that are unrealistically thin or have had cosmetic surgery to ‘enhance’ their image. We as women are developing very distorted images of beauty; young girls are now alarmingly picking it up. Girls (some as young as five) are starting to pick up the same habits and insecurities that adult women have, and there is talk that schools are attempting to bring in lessons on body image.

What I really respect about Denia Kazakou’s piece is that she is addressing an issue that is worldwide and relatable to women all over and is questioning the gender stereotypes that are in play. I am equally curious as to what struck a chord and made Kazakou choose this as a focus for her final exhibition, and what her personal experiences have been and perhaps how they affected her in terms of influencing her work. It is brilliant to see someone stand up and challenge gender roles and the demands that society and also women put on themselves.

Text: Kyanisha Morgan

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