Review: Leave me Shout

Avenue Road Gallery owners Billy Kinsella and Jennette Donnelly with artist Nina Franco

Avenue Road Gallery owners Billy Kinsella and Jennette Donnelly with artist Nina Franco

It’s hanging sweetly on the wall of the Avenue Road Gallery, an intriguing flash of colour. It lulls the viewer into its pink and curvy palette. From afar it looks like a landscape, an illustration, a Japanese comic character perhaps. A relief from the punches delivered by Brazilian photographer Nina Franco’s “Leave me Shout” exhibition.

And then it hits. It’s not an abstract form but a pair of perfect, pert bare butt-cheeks. The girl is bent over, hand snaking through soft thighs, giving the viewer a firm middle finger in lieu of labia, which ends exactly on… yep. It’s called The Hole. The Hole is as sweet, sharp and fearless as its author. Nina is a feminist with a message, which she delivers in a soft, smiling Brazilian lilt.

“Feminism is not about hating men,” she says. “It’s equality, you fight for equality. Women have never had this equality with men, it’s historic.”

“In this work, I talk about strong women that fight against the machine of sexism, but who despair inside,” she continues. “My images depict how women feel inside when they fight, because it’s so hard to fight against it.”

Indeed, many of the pictures make for uncomfortable viewing, by mixing self-conscious nudity and harsh environments, using techniques of superimposition. The eponymous title image, “Leave me shout”, is a suffocating scream of rage, a rebellion of the plastic Barbie, an image that would not be out of place in a David Lynch movie.

Also shouting from the walls is Illegal Pain, a horrifyingly lifelike illustration of abortion. Nearly naïve in its composition, it contains two simple photos pasted onto a white board under childlike, cursive writing proclaiming: “Banish your god from my uterus”.

“I am against abortion personally,” says Nina. “I would not do it, but I fight for it to be legal. We cannot decide for others. It’s very topical in Ireland and in Brazil at the moment.”

The images themselves, black white and red, depict abortion in its harsh, true reality. It’s up to the viewer to stare, take it in and decide.

Leave Me Shout, by Nina Franco

Leave Me Shout, by Nina Franco

Overall, women will likely recognise on some level some feelings of suffocation, frustration, loneliness and pain when taking in the fragmented nakedness, the veiled and masked faces, the scared, fragile, forms shivering in the dark or shining in the light of sexualised artificial beauty.

Most of the images deliver Nina’s message. Some remain a little superficial, too obvious perhaps. And others, like The Hole and Leave Me Shout, are like a smack in the face. Subtle, multi-faceted, they shout against the objectification of the female body and the oppression of women in a clever package that may well make them future icons of the feminist fight.

“Leave me Shout”, curated by Jennette Donnelly, runs at the Avenue Road Gallery in Portobello until October 27.

About monicaheck
Monica Heck is a bilingual freelance writer and journalist based in Dublin, Ireland.

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