East London photographer and visual artist, Zoe Buckman, rules the roost in a darker field. But never loses her wit and sense of humour. Playfully bending the bouji margins of multimedia, Buckman’s current ‘Present Life’ show uses placenta as a telescope into the new neon energy of motherhood.

Always transcending – ‘Every Curve’ crossfades adolescent memories of hip hop’s female-facing ebullience with what else, but a handicraft collection of vintage lingerie. Here at Viper, we adore work that juxtaposes to re-dispose. She joins us to talk conflict, influence and growth…

You’re known as a photographer and artist. What was the first method of creating art you experimented with?
When I was 15 I studied textiles at school and then later photography. I chose to pursue photography initially as a form of artistic expression but in the last few years have expanded my practice again to include to both new and old mediums including embroidery, sculpture, glass and installation.

Your ongoing body of work is named ‘Present Life’. Is it important to you that there’s a realism to the artwork you produce?
Realism is important to me, but more specifically authenticity. Works of mine could be abstracted or realistic, but as long I lead from a place of truth I’m happy.

One of the earliest projects I saw of yours was the ‘Loo’s’ series with quotes from women in bathrooms. Were there any quotes that were good but too crazy to include?
There were quotes that didn’t make it into the series but probably because I found them uninteresting… I don’t think there were any too outrageous to include.

Were you always drawn to creating as you were growing up?
I was always making some kind of artistic mess as a kid. I was also really drawn to literature and the theatre, and I feel a lot of my work has a theatrical/ performative element to it.

What were the first artworks you created and exhibited?
My very first exhibit was my solo show of photography called ‘Loos’ and that was over years ago, after I left ICP [International Center of Photography].

You often work outside of photography, what inspires you to produce more than images?
After I had a child I felt changed. I had entered a new phase in my personal life and I guess it makes sense that my artistic practice started to reflect this. I didn’t intend to, but I started to feel limited with photography and I wanted to break out into new mediums. So I started with neon, which is a natural progression from photography because both use light as their paintbrush .

You embroidered classic rap lyrics onto vintage underwear for ‘Every Curve’. How did you choose the lyrics you wanted to use?
I chose the text by gathering all the lyrics used by Biggie and Tupac that refer to women. I then selected a piece of text that most feels suited to a particular garment. For example if the lyric is about a woman’s anatomy or birth I might stitch it onto a garter belt, if it mentions breasts it might end up on a bra.

You’ve said that Every Curve explores the contradictory and complimentary influences of feminism and hip hop. How do you feel that the conflict between the two influences you?
I’ve always wanted to produce a body of work that explores the conflict between feminism and hip hop. It’s a complicated relationship and one I have grappled with for years as a feminist and rap fan.


Photo of Zoe by Jessica Malafouris
All other photos by Zoe Buckman
Words by Shola Timothy

This is an extract from the Spring Summer 15 Issue of Viper Magazine. Read more from the magazine here. Buy physical and digital copies here.

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