Truth and Beauty

Truth and beauty: the thin line between the macabre and ‘perfection’

Truth and beauty
The Forum – University of Exeter
February 20-23, 2018 from 9am to 5pm

An art exhibition exploring the thin line between what is beautiful and macabre, is being staged by Devon artist and former fashion model, Phillippa Mills.

The new series of work in mixed media, opening at the University of Exeter this month, draws on research at the University of Exeter into how social media is being used by young women to promote ‘skeletal’ images of beauty.

The exhibition of haunting drawings, sketches and paintings depicts young women tortured by the quest for what they perceive as ‘perfection’ .

Phillippa left the fashion industry to concentrate on her art after becoming disillusioned by young models starving themselves in a quest for beauty.

Her latest exhibition is influenced by her experience of the fashion world and research by psychologists at the University of Exeter into the ‘bonespiration’ phenomenon, where women as young as 12 post photographs of themselves looking dangerously thin.

Truth and beauty: an exhibition of new work by Phillippa Mills, is one of a series of exhibitions of work by artists from the South West at the University of Exeter.

It continues a theme in Phillippa’s work examining how beauty can be disposable and how society perceives perfection. These include installations featuring animals ‘disposed of ’ because they do not subscribe to our ideals. They include a euthanased show pony hanging upside down, and a flightless swallow in a crucifix pose.

“My art explores the concept of perfection and draws a fine line between beauty and the macabre,” said Phillippa, who studied at Camberwell College of Art.

‘I draw inspiration from many sources, and was disturbed by research showing how social media is being used by thousands of young women to glorify emaciated images of themselves, deeply damaging themselves in the process.

‘We have to question what drives young women to these extremes and whether the way we define beauty and perfection is to blame.’

Catherine Talbot, a psychologist at the University of Exeter, whose research into the ‘bonespiration’ phenomenon, was widely reported in the national press last year, will provide a narrative for Mills’ exhibition.

Her published research, read by Phillippa, examines how young women are posting emaciated photographs of themselves featuring jutting bones, on twitter and Instagram, in what Talbot describes as a ‘social contagion.’

The exhibition explores how young women’s sense of self worth can be damaged by pressure from social media and idealised images from fashion.


(from a press release)

Image: ©Phillippa Mills