Representing the creative future

Molly Gough, artistically critiquing our Tinder-culture

Molly Gough isn’t sure why she started making art, but she’s sure she won’t ever be able to stop. It makes sense really, when you see it, that Molly’s work needn’t come with a set plan or a bucket of obscure reference points.  She makes work about what she knows, and what she knows is the experience of ‘‘being a woman in the art world’’.

The BA Fine Art student is currently working towards her looming final year degree show piece, about which she is still uncertain. ‘‘I have no idea what it will consist of,’’ she says, unfazed. ‘‘I am just making work and hoping it will come to me. Probably after one or two breakdowns…’’

Originally from Stafford, Molly now lives surrounded by fellow fine art students in ‘cliché’ (her words) Peckham. She may hate herself for it (by her own admission again), but this combination of art and everyday millennial living seems to be at the core of her artistic inspiration. ‘‘Networking (in the art world) has become intrinsically linked to dating,” she says. ‘‘If I went onto Tinder now, the first five guys I swipe will either be graphic designers or creative directors. I’ve realized that when a guy messages saying ‘I would really love to see your work in the flesh someday!’ it really means, ‘I would love to see you naked in the flesh someday!’ These power relations are extremely interesting to me and are inspiring my most recent works.’’

Molly Gough performing during the Central Saint Martins open studios


It’s this power play that informs the content of Molly’s work and the medium in which it is explored. Her work frequently turns the gaze on itself, delving one layer deeper than the gender tropes and expectations played out on social media. Take Gough’s 1st year project, in which she instructed her friends to Snapchat males they found attractive in London, and a second year project in which she deliberately burst balloons in areas frequently enhanced on social media. Molly’s work is experiential in both conception and reception, and consistently self-referential. “I think at the moment I’m taking part in the sexualisation of myself,” she explains ‘‘both in my own practice and as my role as a female artist.

At 22 (cue joint Taylor Swift rendition), Molly is as much a critique of her generation of Internet obsessives as she is a participant. Describing her art world peeve as the ‘‘demand to constantly be on’’, she simultaneously acknowledges this as the inspiration for her work. ‘‘Even though I rant about the art world, it is what solely drives my practice,’’ she explains. “The presence of the artist has become a requirement, and with the addition of social media in contemporary culture, we are expected to provide access to ourselves, to create a spectacle of ourselves, to become fluent in self-branding and promotion.’’

Molly’s approach to the female artist predicament is as much vulnerable as it is bold. She plays with modest items and forceful statements to play out this contradiction; arch supports, tyres, hair doughnuts from said Peckham bargain shop. ‘‘I like to use objects that are somewhat innocent,’’ she explains. ‘‘I like to play with them, play with their placement to create a new narrative for them. Through this process they are rid of their original function.’’

A lack of pretension colours each of Molly’s answers. The favourite thing about her home? Pound shops. Her biggest annoyance at CSM? People taking lifts to the first floor empty handed. Her favourite place to see art? Instagram. ‘‘How else would I be able to see art from around the world? I’m too poor to afford the plane tickets,” she laughs before qualifying further. ‘‘I actually love to see art on the Internet, it makes it more accessible and helps banish the pretentious high brow culture of the art world whilst merging it with popular culture!’’ Molly might be modest about her artistic process, but she’s concrete in her ideas.

As she talks, it becomes clear that Molly would be owning her own characterisation as a female artist. She thinks independently and is unfazed by her mistakes, quirks or potential downfalls. R&B and Pop music play in Molly’s studio and she wears clothes that aren’t ready for being ruined. ‘‘I’m really inspired by the lyrics of Pop music and the swearing in Rap makes me write faster,’’ she claims unapologetically. In having no set plan, no set of obscure references, Molly is making art for herself. She may feel like she’s a step outside of the art world, but perhaps she’s just a step ahead of it.