University: Falmouth University
Genre: Conceptual Art
Artist Statement: Emily is a conceptual fine art photographer whose work tackles the conversation created from viewing art, whilst using everyday objects to help communicate issues sometimes hard to verbalise.
The series Knock on Wood uses every day, inexpensive and readily available items of furniture, assembled in a different way to create beautiful sculptures. These sculptures ignore the original purpose of the objects and are intended to provoke the viewer to challenge traditional definitions of art and question the relationship between art and design. The title of the project comes from Ikea's original concept of 'flat pack' furniture.
What are some standout moments from your time at university? Undoubtedly the ski trip! Joking aside, the opportunity to learn and work immersed in such a creative atmosphere has been amazing. Being able to develop within an environment that both supports you and pushes you to stretch yourself has enabled me to begin to fulfil my potential. This culminated in coming together as a year group in my third year to create multiple exhibitions, the opportunity to watch other people enjoy what we had spent so long creating was unbelievably enjoyable, and has to be the stand out moment for me.
Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into? Whilst I believe that my sculptures could fall into Fine Art, it is the Conceptual Art aspect that I feel really drives my work. I love the fact that an artist can challenge their viewer’s preconceived perceptions with their work and the fact this is something I tried to do with my degree show work and is something that I am planning on continuing to explore in my photography post-graduation.
What themes do you find yourself exploring? Driven by my interest in conceptual art, I find myself exploring and playing with everyday objects and their functions. I like to try and be playful so exploring the everyday is a good theme for me. Having said this I also explore my dyslexia and try to create images that help people to understand what it is like to live with dyslexia.
How do you decide on which objects to use in your images? I use things that I find interesting or think should be interesting. This leads me to want to make some frankly boring objects more exciting, thus Knock on Wood came about. Being dyslexic can often be a barrier to learning but as a visual learner I have been drawn to the concept of using flat packed furniture which comes with instruction manuals, as a representation of what life can be like as a result of society telling us there is only one way of doing something, so it allowed me to break the rules by not following the instruction in the intended way to say to society the wrong way isn’t always wrong, and as a result I have taken the purpose away from something purposefully as a result I was creating art.
How did you begin work on this series? Where did your ideas arise from? I began this project by recording myself rolling oranges across the studio floor, which whilst being slightly bizarre, led me to question the “right way” of viewing objects and events. This eventually evolved into my chair sculptures because I wanted people to understand that just because something comes with an instruction manual it doesn’t mean that it has to be followed. I wanted to stress the point that the result of a situation or process can be completely different from the preconceived perception. Much like with life, with art I believe there is no “right” answer or “right” method to achieve a goal.
Who influences your work photographically? Duchamp’s concept of the Readymade focused on “ordinary objects of everyday use, sometimes slightly altered” (Tate n.a 2017), has been one of my main influences over the past 2 years. The language of an object and the way it can be used to symbolise something or respond to a world issue and challenge understanding has heavily influenced my work, however I believe that the concept of the readymade allows the viewer to interpret and define the meaning of the work themselves. The playfulness of Fischele and Weiss, particularly how they use this to tackle serious issues has also influenced me.
How do you set up your props? How do you know when a sculpture is ready to be photographed? My sculptures came from playing around with objects making them self balance, lots of trial and error, or when I could get to the camera before they fell over, I played around which lots of different forms I explored with building upwards and across with lots of objects but they worked best when they where minimal and you couldn’t figure how they where balanced. I explored with different coloured objects to become part of the sculpture and bring a secondary element. I explored the use of lighting to enable the shadows became part of sculpture. I knew I was there when it objects no longer resembled its origin form and at first glance look like something completely different but still usable.
You mention that you enjoy when "an artist can challenge their viewer’s preconceived perceptions with their work". How would you say to tried to replicate this through your own work? Art is created with the mindset that different people will take different things from it with my own work. I replicated this within my work by taking everyday objects that everyone recognised and could understand e.g. an Ikea chair. I then created sculptures by dismantling and reconstructing them. This challenged the viewer, their first view would be one of ‘I recognise this’ then on closer inspection requiring them to draw conclusions of their own. It could perhaps be called the concept of confusion. I then created Ikea style manuals to explain the parts I had used and the process of how I had created the sculptures and provided a step by step guide on how to view the work in order to remove some of the confusion.
How are you planning on expanding your portfolio now you've graduated? I would love to continue the exploration of the relationship between photography and sculpture. Using it in a way that can answer questions. Using everyday objects makes it accessible to all. Dyslexia is different for everybody and grossly misunderstood by those who do not have it. I would like my future work to focus more on the ability to see objects in a 3d perspective.
Do you think your work will always revolve around "there is no “right” answer or “right” method to achieve a goal"? I think so as learning has always been the process rather than the product for me although my art has now become a tool to teach and challenge others around me as well as expand on my own understanding. Growing up I was taught to think outside of the box and work in the way that was the best for me and not necessarily the same way as my peers, it's so easy to follow whatever one else is doing and not following and being “wrong” is where you find turning points in projects. It's fun to see the world in a different way.