8 November 2015

Niqui Toldi’s Unbeing exhibition at Junky Comics: girls and anxiety

Words: Saskia Edwards
Images: Jonathan Rae

In Niqui Toldi’s illustrations there’re lots of girls - short hair, long hair, smoking, angry, pierced, bound.

But really, all these girls are Niqui. They’re like a self-portrait - a manifestation of how she feels and is. And they’re a way of grappling with her own life and self-identity. 

She says: “it’s just sort of a way for me to deal with how I’m feeling internally because I’m not always good at externalising how I feel to other people.

“It’s sort of a way for me to separate myself from being too vulnerable at the same time. It’s being vulnerable but without being completely vulnerable.

“Because it’s not always necessarily completely obvious that they are almost me.”

The girls seem sad at times, self-destructive, lost, with hands anxiously clasping at the ground or onto a cigarette or a match or a scalpel. And they do really display anxiety quite well - where nothing bad is happening immediately but you’re trapped sitting there half naked smoking and feeling helpless with a whirlwind in your brain.

This ‘Unbeing’ series looks at the last year of Niqui’s life. 

“A lot of things happened - a relationship I had of four years had just ended, my grandmother who lives alone and I’m her only blood relative... had a stroke so I’m her main contact.

“Then I was getting more responsibilities at work and it was the first year I’d been medicated and properly diagnosed for my anxiety.

“So it was a huge collection of all these things happening in the one year.

“I just started to deal with it - started drawing it.”

But it’s not that easy. Putting on a solo exhibition was a big deal for Niqui. 

“Because of my anxious nature and shyness I’ve always been really reluctant and I almost hold myself back.

“So this is the first time that I’ve really let myself put myself out there.

“Even last night at the launch, it was exciting and I was nervous and people had started coming in.

“And maybe five people had come in that I didn’t know and I just started crying up the back, which is really ridiculous because this is a really good thing, this is a fun time.”

Of course it went really well. People sardined themselves into Junky Comics, admiring what I guess they thought were imaginary sirens. 

If you really think about it, Niqui’s works remind you of the true purpose of art. They show that out of anxiety, self-doubt and heart ache you can make something. And it can be beautiful.

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