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Intimate Moments with Maya Irving

Intimate Moments with Maya Irving

"Our sexual and creative energies are in bed with one another. I believe that they live and breathe the same entity."

By Maya Irving

"When we divert our sexual energy into the creative sphere and vice versa, a powerful dialogue of embodied knowing occurs."

I grew up on Wurundjeri country in the Eastern suburbs; Warrandyte and Ringwood areas. I had a delicious childhood spending lots of time outdoors, by the ocean, building forest cubby houses and playing lots of soccer. I am a visual artist based in Naarm out in Warrandyte where I am lucky enough to have a gorgeous home studio looking out onto the trees. I work with movement, intuition and colour to interrogate my inner and outer landscapes. I build my artworks with layers of free movement and mess-making to inspire playfulness and curiosity with the sensual self. 

Alongside my art practice, I work at Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre for a company called Living Music where I teach art on the weekends. Throughout the week, when I’m not in the studio, I work for an outdoor advertising agency called Apparition Media painting murals on city walls. I am slowly plodding my way through a Bachelor of Visual Arts and Teaching but find my art practice is constantly pulling me away from this realm. 

My first experience of sex had a profound effect on my relationship with my body and sexuality for many years. Between the years of eight and twelve, there were instances of infidelity in my parent's marriage. I wasn’t of the age to properly grasp what was going on, but to me, sex seemed like a dangerous weapon to devastate a family and a child’s sense of safety and certainty. I was repulsed by everything that resembled sex. I would close my eyes in movies when kissing scenes came on. I loudly hated every boy in my class and made multiple bets of one million dollars that I would never kiss a boy in my life. I was utterly closed off to exploring my own sexuality which is partly why it’s such a huge focal point in my life now. Luckily, I had an extremely tender and supportive first relationship which slowly gave me the safety to unfurl into a sexual being. 

People who've most influenced my sexuality include Euphemia Russell. In 2020, I attended a workshop with Euphemia on Slow Pleasure. This inspired a complete upheaval and revival of my creative and sensual self. I embarked on a new body of work created in response to sensations of pleasure. This involved painting whilst masturbating, painting whilst receiving oral pleasure, painting directly after love-making and painting directly after experiencing a simple pleasure such as yoga, eating a chocolate-coated liquorice stick or breathing in three deep long breaths.

The experience enabled me to grasp my sexual energy, to turn it inwards and slowly outwards. To indulge in the powerful relationship between sexuality and creativity.  I am forever grateful to Euphemia for guiding me into my body, finding the safety and confidence to awaken my sexual/creative voice within, idle for too long. I also take inspiration from Frida Kahlo for being the powerful, resilient, playful, sexual and interrogative artist and human that she was. 

Initially, as I was discovering my sexuality, it was in relation to the other. I felt a lot of resistance to exploring my own body and relationship with the self. Over time, with some beautiful lovers, a great deal of therapy, and the painting process, my relationship with my body is a mostly shame-free explosion of playful delight! 

My sensual fire ignites when I sit quietly in bed with my morning coffee, when I pause on my run to inhale a deep long breath, when I listen to my favourite playlist eight times in one day, when I rub charcoal softly across a canvas, feeling my skin brush the empty surface. There is a tenderness within it that constantly grounds and brings me back into my body and breath. 

I spent a couple of years creating paintings of landscapes and figures, forever searching for that feeling of an exhale. I felt restricted in painting something of resemblance. When I began creating from a place of embodied knowing, sexuality naturally became the predominant theme of my works.

"Our sexual and creative energies are in bed with one another. I believe that they live and breathe the same entity."

Through my painting process, I have been able to access a deeper understanding of my sensual, playful, tender spirit and slowly build a resilient sense of worthiness. Through movement and intuitive mark-making, I find safety in which to interrogate the darker, woeful currents in my body. To acknowledge them, give them a voice and pull them through a reassuring stream to warmer waters. 

Painting has been my cocoon in which to authentically own and explore my sexuality. To communicate from a space of embodied knowing. To feel pleasure in its totality, knowing its boundaries and exploring it unrestrained, seeping throughout the everyday. I don’t always paint naked, and things are often the opposite of intuitive vitality. Sometimes I am rugged up from head to toe, staring blankly at my work, drinking way too many coffees, completely out of my body and suffering in my mind.

Our sexual and creative energies are in bed with one another. I believe that they live and breathe the same entity. To fall deeply into each space requires a great deal of vulnerability, curiosity and intention.  When we divert our sexual energy into the creative sphere and vice versa, a powerful dialogue of embodied knowing occurs. An unravelling of movement, sound, breath and exuberance. A heaving of impulse and intuition. When I paint after a love-making session with another or myself, my body caresses the canvas with an overflowing bounty of motion and form. Our bodies are the ultimate temple of pleasure and creativity. 

I feel most connected to my sexuality when I’m well rested, when I do yoga regularly, when I spend at least two days in the studio, when I take the time to self-pleasure without external stimulation, and when I hear others sharing stories of their own connection to sexuality. The greatest lesson I’ve learnt about sex is that your sexuality is never static. Forever adapting to its environment, new stimulations, lessons learnt and reflections in quiet time. Your sexuality consists of so much more than sex, it's alive and burning at every damn moment in time.

Maya Irving

– Visual Artist

Maya Irving is an emerging visual artist currently based in Wurundjeri country, Warrandyte. Maya works with movement, intuition and colour to convey her experience of both her inner and outer landscapes.