Exhibition review: Demonised: Izzy Faith V, Honey Bones Gallery

Melbourne artist combines cultures, technology and media to create an exhibition of high-quality, demonic pop art.
Izzy Faith V. Image is a 3D illustration of a demon woman with pink wings and antennas and an abundance of green hair. She is sticking her tongue out.

Hunter S Thompson’s seminal 1971 novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas begins with a quote from Samuel Johnson: ‘He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.’ As you enter Izzy Faith V’s new solo exhibition, you’re immediately greeted with a wall filled with fast-edited images of female demons, yōkai and villains, many of them anime, with 16 words in the foreground: ‘She who makes a beast of herself gets rid of the pain of being a woman.’ This, in both imagery and words, is an appropriate introduction into the hyper-conscious, pop-demonic world of Izzy Faith V (which is pronounced “V” not “the fifth”, just in case you were wondering). 

Faith has worked in the art and props departments for many huge-budget films, such as Thor: Ragnarok, Aquaman and Pirates of the Caribbean, and this certainly shows in the uniformly industry-standard quality of her work. Similar to her exhibition at Fitzroy’s Off the Kerb gallery in July last year, the work in Demonised is predominantly an eclectic assortment of 3D objects and paintings (many artworks look two-dimensional, but all of them are on custom-made, multilayered canvases, which means there are actually no 2D works here except for the video projection as you walk in).

These artworks include rows of Hannya-style masks (a jealous female demon from traditional Japanese Noh theatre), all spray-painted in glaringly pop colours and given ribbons in their hair. 

Two altar-like setpieces sit at opposite ends of the room. To the right is a sticker-covered computer screen, accompanied by an assortment of objects, such as a roughly quarter-sized fluorescent pink skull (there are a few of those lying around here), various contemporary Japanese pop culture trinkets and a model of a human heart being used as a flower vase.

Onscreen, there’s a head and shoulder image of a computer-generated, cartoonesque kijo (demon woman from Japanese legend), depicted here as a normal, contemporary girl, but undergoing bewildering, constant costume changes, some of which harken back to traditional Japanese kijo manifestations (sometimes they have fangs, horns and fur).

These give the viewer an endless barrage of kinetic neo-pop imagery; according to the artist, there are around 20,000 of them. Behind the kijo is an old-style computer desktop, complete with early Myspace windows. On the other side of the room is another altar, this one with a gumball machine as its central drawcard. You can buy a token to get some of its wares (merch, including limited edition keychains, were available on the night – but are quite probably sold out).

Faith’s art, mediums, inspirations, themes and colour-drenched visual style could easily remind one of Lauren YS, aka Squidlicker, the distinctive and prolific US artist (who has a mural here in Melbourne, if you know where to look). This analogy was also evident with Faith’s appearance on the exhibition’s opening night — for both YS and Faith, the artist themself is just another canvas. 

Faith has lived in many cities, including Berlin, Tokyo, Mexico City and Beijing, and being exposed to these different cultures is evident in her works, especially since her art is attempting to bridge society’s ancient depictions of women who deviate from the norm – succubi, sirens, banshees – to similarly ostracised women in contemporary society, who are given labels like “thot” and “pick-me girl”.

Image: Supplied.

While these connections could be hard to find under the mix of instantly recognisable myths, technology, demonics and sexuality, all delivered in a multimedia neo-pop package, some of her pieces’ names give it away, especially The Banshee and the Karen. The subject of this work – who is riding a pink dragon – is half physical, half skeletal ghost. Its meaning is up to interpretation. 

Read: Theatre review: Closer, La Boite Theatre

Faith’s work aims to comment on both the ‘tech-induced nihilism’ of today and ‘nostalgia for the techno-optimism of the early 2000s’. In doing so, she is creating a conceptually vibrant, medium-blending, culture-juggling world in which ancient myths and retro technology are repackaged in the form of extremely high-quality pop art – pop art with both attitude and something to say. Confirming what I thought when I saw her work last year at Off the Kerb, I predict this artist will go far. Buying one of her pieces is probably a good investment.  

Demonised by Izzy Faith V
Honey Bones Gallery, Melbourne

Demonised will be exhibited until 14 April 2024.

Ash Brom has been writing, editing and publishing books, stories, journals and articles for over 25 years. He is an English as an Additional Language teacher, photographer, actor and rather subjective poet.