"I definitely identify as being a feminist artist. But I don't like to just box myself into being [someone with] a strict feminist message."
Stent is among the visual artists showing works at 2016's Sugar Mountain, a curated "Summit Of Music And Art" - the festival blurb summarising hers as "an immersive exhibition, combining the sensual, the surreal, the sexual and the strange". Stent has teamed up with her regular collaborators, Clare Longley and Honey Long. "We all actually have quite different artistic practices," Stent explains. "I'm a photographic artist, but then Clare's a painter and she also does collage, and Honey works with sculpture and performance art. Our challenge was trying to find a way of bringing all of our mediums together. What we've decided to do is we're creating a surrealist, fleshy internal space that explores an inward visceral experience." There's even a sound design component.
"What we've decided to do is we're creating a surrealist, fleshy internal space that explores an inward visceral experience."
Photography was Stent's childhood hobby. Originally from Sydney, she moved to Melbourne to undertake a Bachelor Of Art at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). She's since developed a striking aesthetic. Stent juxtaposes female corporeality with natural landscapes and flora. Her Pink series reclaimed a colour associated with gender conditioning and feminine submissiveness. Yet her photography is intuitive. "A lot of people ask me, 'What is your message, what are you trying to say?,'" Stent says. "It's revealing a personal female experience in a contemporary setting, I guess... [But] I really do like leaving it open for interpretation a bit." That "personal" aspect is accentuated by the fact that Stent's subjects are friends and family members, which, the artist admitted to Vice, has led to accusations that she doesn't depict cultural diversity. Regardless, Stent, no directorial photographer, embraces others' creative input. "I also think working so closely with the same female artists enables me to feel comfortable and [to] create natural, playful images that show a relationship between the subject and the photographer."
Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter
Stent's art is invariably classified as feminist, which can be reductive. "I definitely identify as being a feminist artist. But I don't like to just box myself into being [someone with] a strict feminist message. Of course, I'm celebrating the female form, and I wanna show the beauty, and even a visceral kind of beauty... It's something I'm trying to figure out."
Stent, who's had installations at Sydney's Secret Garden, welcomes the opportunity to exhibit at Sugar Mountain, reaching a different demographic than a gallery. And the artist, who has "a perverse curiosity", will observe patrons' reactions to her images, which can be simultaneously sublime and unsettling. "I find it fascinating to see the way that people do interpret my work. I would like a lot more truthful feedback because it's really hard to achieve that. It's challenging, but I find it interesting to see how people react or how they interpret my work... But I don't necessarily want it to just be a positive [experience] — you don't want it to be a negative experience, but you want it to be a challenging experience, perhaps. I find it interesting what is triggering about it and what people like or what people don't like. It's all a part of the experience."