Artist and writer, Popea Salisbury, has released her debut zine, 'body count'; a raw and emotive collection of stories and ink sketches, reflecting on the sexual encounters which have shaped her memories.
Working in collaboration with Chikaboo Designs, a newly established small press publisher, Popea felt comfortable to share her stories about the vulnerability that arises through sex and intimacy. Popea's stories sting with a sense of relatability and growth, making the heartache as stories curiously spiral through emotions. We asked Popea to share one of her stories from the 'body count' zine and tell us what she gained by reflecting on her sexual experiences, one body of work at a time.
Hi Popea. We found reading 'body count' a very relatable portrayal of sexual experiences. What influences have helped shape your zine?
I’m a big fan of the artist Tracey Emin, I’m drawn to the rawness and complete openness in her work’s narrative. She tells stories through the fluidity of her paintings; the physical handprints on her sculptures; her descriptive titles. Everything she makes carries weight from her life experiences; being a daughter; being an openly sexual woman. I resonated with all of this quite strongly, and became interested in the obsessions we develop with lovers - craving intimacy from our vulnerabilities, latching onto people to fill a gap. She also writes a lot, so this idea of journaling my sexual experiences clicked with me. Exploring the past and how it impacted my most present, vulnerable self felt necessary to me. Before meeting Natasha (Founder of Chikaboo Designs) I never considered turning it into a public project, but after talking, we realised we shared so many similar experiences. From this point, I felt that my stories were worth sharing and getting out into the open.
How has writing and creativity helped you to discuss this area of your life (love, sex, intimacy, maturity) more openly?
Early on in my body count I’d already had a couple ‘fuckbois’ and subsequent heartbreaks which felt so significant and harrowing at the time. I spent ages venting to my friends to deal with the anxieties of dating each guy, but it never really helped. It was weird - talking to people about my problems diluted their importance for me. They lost their precious nature. So the next step to physically make something with all of this emotion bubbling inside me felt like a necessary and natural release.
Writing about all of these very raw, intense moments of my past made it even more important to know when something is finished so you can move on and accept what has happened.
Art has always been a way for me to translate my feelings in a healthy way. Whenever I draw, collage, use ink: my mind transports somewhere else, and everything goes quiet. I can think without overthinking. Everything feels clearer for a moment. I have control over what I'm making and the emotions I'm trying to explore. It’s difficult to explain, you have to just do it to experience it.
How did the process of writing these stories impact you?
I found it therapeutic, scary, difficult, liberating, relieving, refreshing. Different feelings came in waves and depended on which body I was writing about; each story contains its own set of emotions. My writing method followed a stream of consciousness process, so there was no order in which I wrote the bodies. I would write when something triggered a memory, such as revisiting a certain location; the food we ate; the weather at the time. I would take my mind back to the strongest memories containing that person and place myself back in those situations. Some I didn’t enjoy exploring again, such as bodies 5 and 6. I think their tone and mood is very different compared to the others: they were perhaps the biggest shocks to my ‘system’, exposing me to very toxic elements of dating and forming emotional connections.
I think editing the zine was my most reflective stage. I remember repeatedly saying to myself ‘I can’t wait to finish writing and put all of these situations to rest’. To finally be on the outside of that box is quite surreal. In terms of the writing process, it did get to the stage at times where I was over-writing and it started to make less sense. Writing about all of these very raw, intense moments of my past made it even more important to know when something is finished so you can move on and accept what has happened.
What do you hope people will take away from reading your book?
Art is about community. Creating a sense of togetherness. In a world that pushes us to acknowledge our differences, I think it’s still important for us to recognise the things we experience collectively. The one thing that holds us together as we are, as people, is feelings. Whether it’s feelings of love, lust, hate, anger, anxiety, fear, embarrassment, excitement, loss, regret. No matter what stage people are at in their intimate journeys, I hope everyone can relate to my stories in some way. I’m aware of how much content is already out there promoting healthier, more realistic versions of love, sex and intimacy. So the main thing I hope for is that Body Count adds to this thriving community, and continues to normalise the experiences we all share from modern love and dating, keeping the conversation open forever.
There are many projects promoting healthier, more realistic versions of love, sex, and intimacy. I hope that 'body count' adds to this thriving community, and continues to normalise the experiences we all share from modern love and dating.
What are you most proud of completing this project?
I’m most proud of finding acceptance for my past. It became frustrating, going round in circles with all the bodies darting about in my headspace. It’s been like airing out a messy wardrobe that’s got lots of clothes clogging it up: you know exactly what’s in there but haven’t got a clue how to sort it out to gain some order. The only way in is to attack from the outside and pull things out one by one until it makes sense. Writing this zine has given me the closure I needed. Despite the pain and sadness, I enjoyed every part of the process - from the sex right through to finalising the draft. It’s been a therapy.
body count is available to buy here via Chikaboo Designs e-Store
You can follow Popea's work on IG @flopart_
Chikaboo Designs Press Publisher is founded and run by Natasha Natarajan. A writer, cartoonist and artist herself, Natasha is passionate about zines and keen to bring creatives together to embark on artistic adventures through publishing. She is committed to cultivating a wholesome creative process with artists and publishing work that deals with the common humanity within us all. She is particularly interested in work that is intimate, vulnerable and very honest. Check out Chikaboo Designs Webpage.
You can read Sassy's interview with Natasha Natarajan here
Keep up to date with latest releases on IG @chikaboo.designs