“I am not your prize,” reads one of Fruzsi Kenez’s works. “Not your pretty girl,” reads another. In a year where gender politics have been thrust into the spotlight, her hand-painted ceramics were “screaming” to be adorned with these phrases, she says. Phrases that swirl around in the minds of women everyday.
“All that stuff you wish you could say in the moment,” says Kenez. “As women we are taught to not hurt other people’s feelings. We have to … guard the egos of men.
“Women are constantly [being told] to ‘lighten up’ or ‘take a joke’. This [exhibition] is me saying, ‘I’m tired. I’m done with that.’
“Every woman you talk to will have her bag of ‘If I Had a Penny’ stories. We all have that bag of pennies that we carry around. And this is kind of my way of emptying the bag.”
Kenez will explore the intersectionality of gender, sexuality and race in her upcoming solo exhibition – her first since 2012 – Mixed Emotions, a collection of illustrations, raku (Japanese pottery) and porcelain sculptures at Urban Cow Studio.
In creating hand-painted cups and plates, Kenez wants to tackle the old adage that women belong in the kitchen. “It’s about … reclaiming that domestic sphere,” she says.
For Kenez, the exhibition is deeply personal – the amalgamation of nearly 30 years of lived experience. “I’m tackling those issues through a microcosmic experience that really reflects the macrocosmic experience of women and gender non-conforming [people].” Racial identity also provided inspiration.
Kenez, who was born in Hungary and grew up in Holland before migrating to Australia, is constantly fielding queries about her accent and background. "Where are you really from?” is a common question. “There’s a lot of exhaustion that drives this exhibition," she says. "It’s an emotional fatigue. For me, that’s been a real vehicle of motivation.”
But Kenez feels like she’s “just scratching the surface” of these experiences. So she's inviting other women to share their own experiences in a notebook at the exhibition. She hopes to publish these stories in a “special project” down the track.
Mixed Emotions opens on Wednesday July 4 at Urban Cow Gallery. It runs until Saturday July 28.