Women Aren’t Toys

Secret Fresh | October 2016

Secret Fresh Art Gallery, 424 Ortigas Ave, Greenhills North, San Juan City Philippines

“Can I Still Be Like Pure Little Girls”, Oil on Canvas, 2016, 4ft x 5ft

Exploring the darker sides of human behavior in her works and the toil they take on social relations, Johanna Helmuth focuses on the experiences of women and their struggles as the theme for her second solo show. The title is a crisp and clear declaration of a stance against dominance and control directed towards patriarchy. It attempts to empower the woman subject to regain control of her body and fate, and break free from the constraints and prejudice imposed on them by patriarchal social standards. It is a statement that opposes the reduction of women into mere objects, a resistance which inevitably recalls the feminist agenda and the various social movements it has launched. Though the project of gender equality has taken great strides in the past few decades or so, its goals are far from completion and remain salient to this day as a continuing struggle and a work-in-progress.

“Prying”, Oil on Canvas, 2016, 4ft x 5ft

“Women are not toys” can also be a catch-phrase intensified with irony in the featured figures of women fashioned into toys, set in a recreation of a Rococo-inspired interior with its delicate frivolity and air of opulence. Taking a multi-media approach this time, the artist combines such figures with paintings and video for a more sensorial experience of art. The scenes, gestures, and movements presented in the range of media gathered in this exhibition hint at forms of abuse that women encounter in their daily
lives. An interactive video installation, for instance, revisits voyeurism and the subjection of a woman’s body and sexuality to the public gaze without her knowledge and consent. The set-up makes use of a peephole and control buttons similar to the ones used in gaming machines to simulate the spectator’s power over the unaware woman subject. It also highlights the spectator’s choice over the perpetuation of the culture of voyeurism, a timely reflection in this age of social media when public shaming of
women through viral video scandals exposing her intimate affairs has become a trend.

The works relate the stories and experiences of every girl and woman regardless of age as she navigates a world full of prying eyes, loses her naivety, and succumbs to social pressures. The artist dedicates the
exhibition to all women who have experienced these abuses in varying forms and degrees, to contribute through her modest means in overcoming their fears and regain control of their destinies.

“Women Aren’t Toys”, 2ft x 2ft x 2ft, acrylic and fabric on resin, 2016

“Women Aren’t Toys”, 2ft x 2ft x 2ft, acrylic on resin, 2016

“Women Aren’t Toys” Interactive video installation ,2016