The exhibition is a feast for the eyes, with animalistic sculptures draped head to toe in brightly coloured polyester tassels. The tassels conceal any hint at a face or identity for each of the sculptures, and will keep you guessing at what lies underneath. There are six sculptures in the exhibition, each playful in their own way and delicately embellished, while being deeply philosophical.
The collection explores “how we look at animals as objects,” says Emery. He is interested in how animals can “become symbols for anything and everything,” and “metaphors for bigger ideas... [when] people project personal sentimentality” onto them. As the title ‘sonder’ suggests, the work triggers a “nostalgia for things that you don’t know”.
To clue you in, ‘sonder’ is a new word that arose over the last decade—so don’t worry if you can’t find it in your dictionary. Emery describes it as the acknowledgement that “strangers and other people in the world have lives as complex as your own. It’s an idea of looking and understanding that there’s more going on” beneath the surface.
Keeping in line with his previous works, Emery has used “a lot of cheap craft materials… on a large scale in a lot of bulk”. He says “there’s something lurid about excessive colour and cheap craft materials,” and the aesthetic of “home decor and things being over-the-top and a bit outrageous in a way”. By using craft materials in a contemporary art setting, Emery creates a colourful experience that will leave you questioning how we see animals as well as the larger world.
Starting out in the fashion space before moving across to fine arts, Emery has spent his career exploring materiality and anthropomorphism, and how animals are represented by people—heavy stuff.
These new works are a continuation and expansion on those ideas. He has had work displayed nationally and internationally since 2003, and recently had solo exhibitions at Dark Mofo and in the Art Gallery of Ballarat. Emery also has work held in private and public collections around Australia—including NGV, Artband, City of Townsville, Goulburn Regional Art Gallery and Deakin Art Museum. As you can tell, he’s a name you should know.
Sonder will be showing at Linden New Art in St Kilda until Sunday 16 May. Entry is free but bookings are required at the moment for social distancing purposes, so you can book either 11:15am –1pm or 2pm – 3:45pm from Tuesday to Sunday. Book your visit here.
Still thinking about Dark Mofo? Suss out everything you need to know for the 2021 iteration here.
Image credit: supplied