Polly Nor targets her own volatile thoughts and mood swings by depicting a dark side of her psyche.
The devil and femininity have long been entangled. From Eve’s creation of original sin to The Devil Wears Prada, women portrayed as satan are represented as the downfall of the good man. But one artist is reclaiming the devil for women and their personal demons.
In Polly Nor’s whimsical illustrated world, woman is a devil unto herself. She sheds her human skin and drinks a beer, horns out and cigarette in mouth. Her demons brush her hair in the bathtub. They hug and dream and fall asleep in pink sheets.
Nor’s world was given life in a music video “Halfway to Nowhere,” by London-based musician, Chelou. The two have known each other since school and decided to collaborate on the project.
“When he sent me ‘Halfway to Nowhere’ and asked if I’d be up for doing the music video I thought the lyrics and feel of the track worked well with the themes in my work so I was up for getting involved,” Nor tells The Creators Project.
Nor worked with animator Andy Baker to bring her demons to life. In the music video, the lines between what’s real and what’s not blur. It’s reminiscent of Where The Wild Things Are, where a human turns into a monster in a whimsical world. But childhood imagination takes a darker, more self-aware turn.
The woman and her demons have become Nor’s accidental trademark. After drawing the two a few times and receiving a positive response, Nor began focusing exclusively on the relationship. “I like the limitation of using the same two subjects, the woman and the demons, but each time capturing something new. I find it really satisfying."
Nor places her characters inside of intricately-planned spaces. Bedrooms aren’t just rooms with a bed; Every item is important—what is laying on the nightstand, brands hidden in clothes strewn across the floor, and charging cables tangled up in bedsheets. The environment feels inhabited and is instantly recognizable to anyone who has spent hours battling thoughts instead of tidying up.
Technology is omnipresent in Nor’s world. “A lot of my work is inspired by the way my generation behaves online, the exploration of self-image and identity and the feelings and anxiety behind it,” she says. Whether her subjects are taking mirror selfies or masturbating to their phone screens, each drawing is rooted in the digital age.
And the female subjects feel modern, too. They wake up with spots on their face and play with fat that jiggles off their torsos. Nor says that her focus on femininity stems from her candid conversations with female friends (“feminism, sex, relationships, feelings, dreams, and ambitions,” are common topics) as well as generations of female artists (Frida Kahlo, Celeste Mountjoy and Nina Chanel Abney, just to name a few).
But, above all, what permeates Nor’s drawings is a magical look at some of our most basic emotions, maximized. to an extreme level. The work is surreal, childlike, and honest, something Nor says stems from “real highs and lows in my moods and those moments of intense ups and downs.”
“I sit down and try to visualize the way I am feeling and whatever is on my mind at that moment in time,” Nor says. “For me drawing is a release I can draw the feelings that I can’t really put in words.”