Chèrise Combrink: Romantic, Feminist & Purposeful
Whimsical and romantic scenes of 1920’s French burlesque and boudoir make you feel nostalgic for a time you have never experienced. Emotive feminine reflection makes you look deeper into yourself, identifying your outer persona comparably to what lies within you. Ideas brought into fruition through acrylic strokes on canvas. Chèrise Combrink’s artwork bursts with fervour and delight.
I meet with the Sydney based artist on Zoom who speaks passionately and excitedly about her work and the themes her art embodies. ‘I would describe it as romantic, feminist and purposeful,’ she says.
‘It’s really inspired by Moulin Rouge, burlesque and boudoir and I have always loved that whole kind of scene. It just came about super naturally to me, I created one painting using my burlesque archetype and then it just flourished from there.’
‘I started my art in the first lockdown in 2020, I was doing a different style then, sort of just water colour on paper vibes of European and Peruvian sceneries.’
Chèrise began to put more energy into her art last year, again taking the dreaded lockdown and turning it into a productive and creative experience.
‘When the lockdown happened, the recent lockdown in 2021 around June, I thought okay this is the perfect time to just grind and work on my art.’
Chèrise says that during the lockdown period her goal was to challenge herself by creating a body of work with a unifying theme, and so she began to create pieces exploring the gaze and femininity.
‘I’ve always been a very big person on feminism and femininity and unravelling that in myself and in my work, it’s just naturally been the progression of it,’ she says.
‘I got to a point where I was painting reflections of my own life, especially growing up and as a woman who presents herself as the stereotype of how a woman should be. I really wanted to challenge the thought process of who I am underneath all of that. Because I think that it’s important for women to know that you’re not a woman just based on how a man perceives you. You are able to have your own gaze of yourself and I think it’s an important thing to unravel that in every single person.’
Chèrise uses mirror imagery to portray both the male and the female gaze.
‘I think it’s important that we get to a space where we can just be super reflective and I think that’s what art should do, It should make you think and do something. When people can look at it and be like oh look I am actually consistently looking and actually not seeing women and people, it triggers something inside of you which is my ultimate hope of what my work can do for people.’
‘Not everything is doomed and terrible about the male gaze but it is good to challenge yourself on how it is you see women and people in general. Chèrise says.
What do we value when we look at people? That is the feeling I want to evoke. A sense of reflection on yourself, how do I see myself? How do I see people?’
This message in Chèrise’s art is one which I can relate to in the same way I’m sure many other women can. Growing up underneath mounting pressures forced on women, to look and act a certain way. Pressures of general society, teenage boys, friends, social media, magazines and TV Shows. Cherise’s art aims to make you question these stereotypes. To dig deeper into what it means to be a woman. The type-casted one dimensional woman you see on TV and in ‘sex-sells advertisements’ is outdated and nothing but a faux.
Chèrise’s mother was an artist and inspired her from a young age. Chèrise was encouraged to paint on large pieces of paper on the walls (as opposed to scribbling directly onto them in the unfortunate way that children do).
‘I have always been around original work and it has definitely always been a big part of my life. I have always been a super creative person, even when I was younger I always had this urge to create something,’ Chèrise says.
Another running theme in Chèrise’s art is the persona Anastacia who Chèrise says has helped her develop a consistent style.
‘So I was just doodling in my journal and I started creating her face … and I was like I love the process of making her face, I just couldn’t stop drawing it and it just felt really fun,’ she says.
‘It just kind of snowballed into this sense of like, she was like me, this is me if I could embody myself in a different way this would be her. There was something super cathartic about creating her and using her as a theme.’
Chèrise’s emotional intelligence and the way it is expressed through her art sets her work apart from others making it significant and relatable for many women. The detailed and busy French compositions inspire the imagination and create a longing to be transported to a place that exists only for enjoying fine dining, music and lavish parties. Who wouldn’t want to lounge around while serenaded, in a giant martini glass wearing nothing but fishnets?