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30th January 2020

Art in Mancunia: Ossie Akhilomen

“In a world of Cindy-Lous, be a Grinch” – Ossie Akhilomen tackles lust, loneliness and autobiography with ‘Ms. Grinch’
Art in Mancunia: Ossie Akhilomen
Photo: Ossie Akhilomen

Architecture student Ossie Akhilomen finds artistic inspiration in a rather surprising form: the green, hairy misery we all know as the Grinch. In her latest drawings, Ossie has reimagined Dr. Seuss’ famous naysayer as ‘Ms. Grinch’, transposing the slinky figure onto swirling winter skies, and into cluttered university bedrooms.

Unlike many people, Ossie didn’t discover the Grinch until she was a teenager, but immediately felt a strong connection with the character. The resulting series “illustrates [her] personality”, as she “always found the male Grinch very sultry, comically disturbed and easily relatable.”

One can sense Ossie’s emotional journey in her portrayal of this feminine character. The first drawing depicts Ms. Grinch nude, sitting in a university halls bedroom. Ossie describes how the sketch “perfectly illustrates [her] mindset at the time… in idle mode, sexualised and very much isolated.”

Themes of loneliness, idleness, and sexuality run through the series, despite changes of material and landscape: we pass from ink on paper, to colour-blocked Warhol-esque duplicates, to haunting winter scenes. Ossie reveals that the pictures were born out of a period of “identity crisis”, when she considered dropping out of university. While her mental state has changed, she still considers Ms. Grinch to be her “natural self”.

If you saw the recent animated film The Grinch, “sexy” probably wasn’t the first thing that came to mind. However, Ossie relates how she subconsciously “lusted for his behaviour”.

“Think of the traits that the Grinch encompasses: he’s moody, he’s stubborn, he’s grumpy, just an all-round miserable character, but it’s key that he’s allowed to feel and be that way… like every old powerful white male, i.e. the most privileged demographic.”

Ossie describes how she feels her “place in society has clear contrast to that and so it’s something [she] lusts over”: the Grinch benefits from the right to act as he wishes unapologetically, without social pressure to conform or change his behaviour.

From this desire, a sensual Ms. Grinch was born, who is consistently portrayed nude throughout the series. Although currently working on an illustration of a clothed Ms. Grinch, which will express “a wider range of character”, Ossie often finds herself returning to the earliest sketches. She still identifies as “that Grinch”.

Ossie transforms the way we consider the Grinch with her elegant artwork, creating an attractive character from one of the cartoon world’s most unappealing antagonists. Her analysis of Mr. Grinch’s privilege might make us green with envy for the freedom he possesses. Indeed, the series shows that everyone has a bit of grinch inside of them, waiting to get out.

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