Romæo on art pop, the beauty myth and aestheticism
May 6th 2022
In the wake of her EP release party at Mothership Studios last week, the debris is still falling after Eora-based artist Romæo ripped it apart. She is a high energy, high concept musician who commands the stage and airwaves. She joined Red Rey on Tuesday Lunch to talk about her Beauty EP and the idea behind it.
Romæo walked Red Rey through the meaning of some of the songs on Beauty. The EP interrogates the reasons we strive for beauty across different facets of life: taking an abstract look at art making, beauty standards, and more.
“I wanted to write about the beautiful for a number of reasons… [Art] is striving for the sublime, the Divine… I have always really loved artists that talk about religion… art itself and these conceptual broader comments about the world… So with this EP, I wanted to take that, I wanted to write about different angles of the beautiful… “
“There is a song on the EP called ‘self love is a scam’, which is very directly about beauty standards… ‘TAKE IT’ was about the attraction to the grotesque, or things we shouldn’t be attracted to, the beautiful in the ugly…. ‘Fall’ was about how the female form has long been held the most beautiful image, in art, in photography… but it is still censored… [This EP] is a chance for me to write a soft essay, and get these conceptual ideas on paper.”
The cover of Beauty EP is a striking close up of the artist’s face, with layers of foundation, bright colours and graphic lines. Romæo explained that she wanted to have fun with the art, approach make-up culture in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, and question its perception and use in society. Make-up is usually perceived as either beauty or art, and Red Rey and Romæo questioned why can’t it be both.
“It’s interesting that makeup is part of the beauty industry, when really, it’s a creative art form. It doesn’t have to be beautiful. Makeup can literally be anything you want it to be. It’s fun to play around. I still want to look but what does ‘good’ mean? I think looking crazy can look good.”
One of the main inspirations behind the EP is the nonfiction book, ‘The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women’ written by Naomi Wolf. Originally published in 1990, Romæo explained how the premise of the book continues to ring true in the 21st century.
“[The book] basically talks about this idea, ‘The Beauty Myth’, which is that as women become more powerful in society, as in, get more economic value, work for themselves, support themselves… The importance of beauty in society increases at the same time, as a way to make sure that women are kept in their place… Our ultimate power is restricted because of beauty standards that are also getting ever out of reach for the ordinary woman.”
Another area influencing Romæo is the late 19th century art movement, Aestheticism. This movement championed pure beauty and ‘art for art’s sake’. In one particular song on the Beauty EP, Romæo wanted to give a voice to the unsung heroes of this period, women.
“[On the art movement Aestheticism] there are all these paintings which are all about looking good. A lot of these paintings were of women, and otherwise Nature, that just look good. It doesn’t mean anything, it just looks good. [The song ‘Good To Look At’ is about] giving voice to the silent male-gazed model, who just got to look pretty in paintings and be immortalised in some sense. Meanwhile it’s the male painters who are the famous ones marked in history [not the subjects].”
Want to hear more from Romæo? You can listen back to her full interview with Red Rey up top, buy/stream Beauty EP on Bandcamp below, or keep an eye on her Instagram for upcoming gigs here.