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Eva Zar & Polly Nor Get Real

Sometimes it’s better to hear straight from the source. Case in point? Milk fam Eva Zar and Polly Nor. When the pair got together for a Milk-sanctioned photo shoot, we knew it made the most sense for them to take care of the talking, too. Eva Zar is a world-renowned photographer (and VFILES photographer of the year 2018) and Polly Nor is an artist who draws, in her own words, “women and their demons.” Keep reading below for a conversation on art, sexuality, and representation between the pair, then check the slideshow above for Zar’s photos of Nor.

Hey Polly, rumor has it you’re about to hit your next and probably biggest solo-exhibition upcoming in October. First of all, congrats! Stars like you need to shine even more. What should we prepare for this time? 

Hehe thanks! I will be presenting this 36-part illustrative series that I’ve been working on for the last few months. I’ve also created a load of ceramic sculptures inspired by characters in that series and designed a new and extra creepy immersive installation room where I will be bringing my illustrations to life for the public to explore.

It’s so exciting to have you hang out with us in the NYC. As an artist, do you feel like our scene is super different compared to London?

Yeah, I feel like it’s very different! I’ve had a really amazing time here. There seems to be a lot more art and music events going on and I’ve met so many cool people that are also new to the city so want to make the most of their time here. I guess because I’ve grown up in London, I never really put myself out there in the same way I do here, it’s easy to get wrapped up in your routine and take things for granted when you’ve lived in one place your whole life. London is a great place too. I am happy I get the opportunity to spend a lot of time in both cities.

I feel like your work always plays with identity, sexuality in a dark but humorous way. When I see any illustration, I always relate to them. How and why do you feel like that relationship between you and the viewer is important?

I’m glad you do! Some of them are pretty out there so it’s a relief to me that people do find them relatable. It’s comforting to think that other people my work and I’m not the only one feeling this way!

What about what you create commissioned work? Is the relationship and your viewer relating to your art work still as important?

Yeah, I rarely do commission work anymore. At the moment I’m managing to survive by selling my own shirts and prints from my online store which means I can afford to be selective about the commission work I take on. I have only taken on two commissions this year! One was for Gucci the other was the artwork for a UK musician (it hasn’t been released yet so I won’t name names). I took on both of those projects because the brief fit really to my own style. They wanted me to create pieces that stayed true to my personal work which meant i didn’t have to compromise on my own style or themes.

It seems like your work is inspired by that peer pressure and fighting against that. Can you talk a little bit about that? Who’s that devil (representing)?

Yeah, I think it’s something that lots of young women struggle with. Growing up I was excruciatingly self-conscious even though I really needn’t have been. I struggled with depression and self-loathing from quite a young age. I would use makeup as a shield between the real me and the rest of the world. I put a huge amount of time and importance into changing my physical appearance, striving for physical perfection. Looking back, I think I hoped that transforming myself to look like somebody else might also transform my life and make me a happier person. But it never did. I’m still not the world’s most secure person but being able to express myself creatively has definitely helped me be more accepting of who I am. My art and my career has given me a lot more self-worth and has forced me to spend less time poking holes in my physical appearance and more time focusing on things that are now more important to me, like my goals, friendships and interests.

Going back for a hot second, you seem to be taking it to the next level — from paper and pen to sculptures and huge installs — what was the reason for your expansion?

I’ve really been thinking a lot about my work habits recently. For the first few years I was satisfied just working on individual pen illustrations and releasing them on Instagram but I feel like over the last two years I have felt the urge to start experimenting with working in different ways and mediums. It can be quite easy to get caught in a cycle, especially with the pressures of Instagram, you feel the need to keep producing the kind of work that went down well online, but I think getting too caught up in producing popular work makes it harder to really develop as an artist. I want to make sure that I keep switching it up and allowing my work to grow and change shape with me.

Besides your upcoming crazy show, what are you looking forward to creating this year?

After my show I’m really looking forward to taking things a bit slower, I want to spend some more time researching and experimenting without the pressure of a show ahead of me, or the need to keep posting my developments online. I’ve got really in to writing recently, and I’m enjoying working on more story-based pieces so I’m hoping that that might end up turning into a book or perhaps an animated film at some point but who knows!

Wow, thanks so much, Polly. Loved hearing all your amazing thoughts! And we look forward to seeing you shine on, sister!

Images courtesy of Eva Zar;

Styling: Heather Newberger
Make-Up: Tony Tulve
Hair: Patrick Kyle

Stay tuned to Milk for more artist convos.

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