Sexual Symbolisms in Art
Singapore’s generally conservative society makes it difficult for these artists to create such art without it being labelled as “porn”, “nudity” or “sleazy”, and people still aren’t comfortable discussing sex-related topics. That’s why we started this sex-art campaign: to shift people’s mindsets away from such negative connotations and appeal to them using palatable, safe-for-work (SFW) art.
So for our very first collaboration with Marina (@mrn.a), a local artist and digital illustrator, we will be delving deeper into the concept of her exclusive designs with us, as well as her influences behind this series!
Q: Tell us a little about yourself and how you became an artist.
A: My name is Marina and I'm a freelance visual illustrator. I stumbled upon this industry by chance, really. About 6 years ago, I came across some designs by an acquaintance while scrolling through Instagram. Back then I joked to my brother saying that I could create art too and he encouraged me to really do it. Afterwards I submitted my work to Noise Singapore but didn’t expect anything to come out of it, so I was pleasantly surprised when I found out my art was featured in one of their public exhibitions!
Some people say that I’m an artist because of what I do for a living, but I think there still are many things about myself and my skills that I can improve on before I feel comfortable enough to call myself an artist.
Q: Why have you decided to work with us?
A: I thought it is a good opportunity to challenge myself to illustrate images beyond my usual comfort zone while advocating for the idea of safe and fun sex at the same time.
In the past, some of my friends will confide in me about their sexual health issues or mundane intimate life but the advice I can offer is limited because ultimately, I’m not a doctor! I realised only then that there is a significant number of people who do not know where to look for information related to sexual health (including myself!) and even more who are afraid to ask because they don’t want to be seen as “dirty” or “shameful”.
This issue has always been at the back of my mind until this partnership came along and I finally have a chance to do something about it.
Q: What is the inspiration behind this set of artwork?
A: Erotic art is usually quite provocative and graphic, which is partly the reason why people don’t feel comfortable with such topics so I didn’t want to draw anything too explicit.
To showcase sex and condoms without being sexual in nature, I designed the art look as sleek, cute and as Safe-For-Work (SFW) as possible. I also avoided using too much of the traditional gender-stereotypic colours like pink and blue for the characters and chose to use snakes instead of human body parts in my designs. At a glance, you can’t tell what gender the snakes are, which makes it more palatable to conservative audiences too.
Q: Yup, we noticed the running theme of snakes in this series. Can you tell us more about its symbolism and what each of the three designs represent?
Above: limited edition SFW stickers available with any condom pack
A: Historically, snakes represent sensuality, fertility and sex. It also has sexual connotations due to its phallic shape. These symbolisms are quite “universal” in the sense that they are prevalent in many cultures, such as Jewish mythology, Christianity and Greek mythology.
Snakes also represent the duality of good and bad. Most of the time, people focus on the bad side of the snakes and neglect the good side. Snakes are often depicted as evil and poisonous, but in some cultures they’re actually known as one of the wisest creatures on Earth. It’s just a matter of perspective, just like how art is very subjective as well.
For this series of sex-art, the snakes generally represent the awareness of your desires and knowledge of all things sex-related that you can have - only if you want to. The audience is initially not aware of such desires and knowledge in them, but by the end of this campaign I hope that they will at least be more comfortable with the topic of sex.
Above: Alexander - lighting up your life
With Alexander, I wanted to bring out the happy, intimate moments we experience when we are in love with someone. It’s two partners being happy in love, coming together and lighting up each other’s lives. It also represents Play is Priority’s glow-in-the-dark condom, which can literally light up your sexy time.
Above: Charlotte - bring your snake to life
The design of Charlotte is a more literal piece, with the snake as the phallic symbol inside a condom. But if you look closely at the design of this snake, it’s actually the tattoo design of the textured condoms!
Above: Edison - have some banana cream pie
Finally, the message behind Edison is that Play is Priority is offering the audience with more sex-related knowledge so they are aware of how to protect their sexual health and spice up their intimacy. There’s no right or wrong answer, just a choice that’s up to the viewer to accept or not. I used ice cream in the artwork to represent the different flavoured condoms because ice cream is often seen as a sinful indulgence, but sometimes it’s the perfect treat you need to end off a long day with your partner 😉