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Interview with Phoebe Paradise

Interview with Phoebe Paradise

By YWCA Staff

You might have seen  Brisbane-based artist, Phoebe Paradise’s designs on YWCA Victoria’s event posters and teatowels. Or her drawings accompanying journalist Clementine Ford’s podcast, “The Misandry Hour.” You might have even seen her lurid, kinetic illustrations on tshirts, bags, socks and dresses. YWCA, chatted with Phoebe about her designs, her music, feminism and her increasingly busy schedule.

Hi Phoebe. Can you describe to us in your own words what you do?

Hi! I always find it hard to answer that question because I feel like I'm working on so much these days. I direct a fashion label that uses my illustrations and paintings and turns them into garments. I also do a lot of design work for bands and venues in the form of merchandise and poster design and I play in a band called Pleasure Symbols.

Awesome. What's the story with your latest clothing collection? What inspired the prints?

The new collection is based off an illustration series I created last year inspired by Brisbane domesticity... or at least Brisbane suburbia and all that comes with it. The motifs used are ones that remind me of being a kid growing up during the summer in Queensland; flying cockroaches, ashtrays, tropical backyards, giant locusts, beers, cigarettes and the unique architecture of the Queenslander houses and workers' cottages.

What did you enjoy drawing as a kid?

It wasn't so much what I enjoyed drawing but just drawing itself. My brother and I would sit for hours with these big rolls of paper Dad had nicked from work instead of playing outside like well-adjusted children. Mostly it was monsters, Pokemon, mythical creatures, their 'environments' and character sheets. Giant nerds. Mum and Dad had this bloody SICK Dungeons and Dragons illustrated monster manual and I think we would just steal ideas from that.

There’s a definite “gross” element to your work- I’m thinking particularly about your “Doing Things” comic when I say that. Do you think it’s generally more socially acceptable for women to produce cutesy, “non-offensive” illustrations and comics?

I agree! But then at the same time, I feel like women might be afraid of doing overly 'feminine' work? I remember growing up and being so proud of not being 'that female artist' who does super feminine, Frankie Magazine kind of work. Which was, on reflection, this really terrible internalised misogyny on my part.

I think I was also afraid of doing feminine work and drawing women because I thought I wouldn't be taken seriously. It's this idea that a female voice isn't an authoritive one…

Agreed-  there's such a unwavering power to full on “femininity” that isn’t explored much.  But what does femininity mean anyway? Being a woman IS kind of gross sometimes- why not draw the ingrown hairs and zits and stuff!


So you would call yourself a feminist, yeah?

Yes, 100%.

Describe YOUR feminism to me. What issues are important to you?

Good question! Personal safety is so important to me. I'm an independent person and I like the idea of being able to just go for a walk at night, or go to the shops by myself without feeling like I have a target on the back of my head. I work at a rehearsal space in Brisbane and usually finish around midnight. It's only a 20 minute walk from my house but after every shift I get an Uber home.

When the mostly male bands finish up for the night at the studio they walk home without a problem. Women are targeted and made to feel unsafe generally.

Totally. Also - in addition to women’s empowerment, feminism is about reversing poisonous stereotypical ideas of masculinity that SAY it's okay to catcall, that women owe men sex somehow. I'd like to wear what I want without being screamed at out of passing cars.

It’s so true. As a woman, you find like you're constantly editing yourself. Changing your words, changing your clothes, changing your route, redacting, apologising..

Women apologise way too much.

It’s a plague. I've got a swear jar at home for saying sorry for no reason. Women apologise for existing.

Listen on public transport. They say it constantly. Even the most confident girl is conditioned to be demure and unobtrusive. Okay, what else is an important issue for you?

Well, I also care deeply about the music scene, and female representation. 2015 was such an interesting year for change and visibility- and this year will be more about instigating more change. There’s more of a zero tolerance policy in terms of harassment and representation- now it’s about calling out shows and festivals demanding equal representation and tackling assault at venues. I remember a time in Melbourne where it was just a given that you'd get grabbed at a hardcore show. You’d tell other girls about it and the response was always “yeah, same. It happens all the time.”

Absolutely. You’d just accept it. The price of admission for entering that “male space.” Anyway, speaking of music, you play in Pleasure Symbols which consists of you and Jasmine Dunn.

Yeah- Pleasure Symbols is a minimal, restrained dark-wave act. Super synthy and downer. We've just finished a long overdue 12 inch that will be released through Death Valley records in Brisbane within the next couple of months.

And aside from designing the awesome poster for the event, you made the journey south from Queensland to play our Rack Off! festival. Did you enjoy the day?

Rack Off fest was seriously amazing. I wish all gigs were more like it. Tipping the scales of representation towards women-focused bands and businesses just made for this incredibly supportive, exciting atmosphere.  Like, picture every time you've been at a bar and have those fun interactions with girls in the bathroom where everyone is just gushing over each other's outfits but transplant that interaction to the entire venue.

Tell me about the work you’re doing for journalist and activist, Clementine Ford.

I am super excited about starting work with Clementine Ford and her amazing podcast "The Misandry Hour." I'll be creating an illustration to accompany each episode of the monthly podcast, as well as doing little bits and pieces for the series- logos, merchandise designs, things like that.

Clementine is an absolute legend - she's fighting the good fight and I want to be a part of it in some small way.

Wonderful!  Thank you Phoebe.


follow on Instagram- @phoebe.paradise

Find Pleasure Symbols here- https://pleasuresymbols.bandcamp.com/releases