Emma Gale

Cultural Crossroads

January 11 - January 31 2014

A vibrant mélange of cross-cultural traditions, Emma Gale's imagery explodes with the all the energy and excitement of the Swinging Sixties and Psychedelic Seventies. Those were ‘heady' times when western youth ventured out, and within, in search of new experiences and ‘cosmic' understandings. Pilgrimages to remote fabled lands were made; the returning travellers adorned in tribal beads, bangles, headbands and garments fashioned from exotic fabrics. Wafts of incense and the foreign sounds of sitar, tabla and reed flute suffused reclaimed inner city areas and rural havens.

Emma is too young to have directly experienced this colourful vanguard but declares her longtime fascination with other cultures and the way they express themselves through dress and adornment, "I always wanted to live in a far off land with the tribes. Yes, I am a dreamer. I think if it wasn't for art I would probably be in a mud hut somewhere! For this show I wanted to express my love of the different customs and traditions in our amazing world. I am like a bowerbird collecting material to inspire my imagination. I take bits and pieces of textile patterns from everywhere and weave them into my art."

A marriage of East and West and the past becoming present, Emma's works on paper have all eclectic dynamism of Sixties' poster art. Collaged cutouts from art and fashion magazines or vintage papers are deftly combined with feathers, paint and finely penciled facial features. John Lennon was certainly no stranger to cultural diffusion. The rose-coloured specs and rainbow-hued jacket that Lennon wears in Kama Rama alludes to his "Indian-style hippy vibe" and the trip the Beatles made up into the hills to meditate with the Maharishi. A tad of wry humor and two-fold intent invests the title of another work, His Royal Highness. Although Andy Warhol eschewed such ‘Flower Power' trappings, Emma has him joining in the festivity. His signature black skivvy is now emblazoned with "an African street art look."

The works Rue a Buxelles - Belgium and Rue de Marais - Paris reference a recent trip to Europe. "These are an amalgam of the buildings and things that I saw walking the streets - we just walked everywhere!" Emma enthuses. "I loved the old buildings and architecture; the patterns, the divine stonework, the embellishments. I could never get enough of it, I seem to just be a sucker for anything visually stimulating." And then there are Emma's Frida's who so brilliantly channel the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo's indomitable ‘lust for life'. "I could just spend all day every day doing these!" smiles Emma. In this new body of work a globe-trotting Frida pops up in Africa, Afghanistan, India, Vietnam, Laos, Peru and looking chic in some European city street. She even takes a turn on the catwalk. "Designer Kenzo used pom-poms on one of his couture dresses a few years ago, they were amazing, they totally blew me away - I love tassels and pom-poms!" explains Emma.

In contrast to the intricacies of her works on paper, Emma's canvases are a kind of declaration of personal freedom. Spontaneity is the key. Bold brush markings and unintended drips and splotches are left exactly as they were applied with no attempt to modify. A lush profusion of decorative detailing prevails. Totemic animal and bird imagery make an appearance displaying both natural and ceremonial embellishment. Aspects of the rich cultural tapestry of Imperial China are also featured. Emma relates how the Little China Girl painting evolved from its elaborate headpiece that was incongruously inspired by the patterns in the fabric of a vintage Indian bag. Here again we see fragments of disparate pictorial traditions enter into new relationships. "It's about worldly travels and cross-culture - it's dreaming of being somewhere else," she reflects. Perhaps the crux of the remarkable popularity Emma's art is generating is her ability to manifest our urge to leave the everyday grind; to ‘embark upon the road less travelled' and into realms where accord, exuberance and colour are the order of the day.

Emma attended the Julian Ashton School of Art, Sydney, 1989 - 1991 and studied screen printing and textile design at the National Art School, Sydney, 1991. She won the Border Art Prize, 2009 and has been a Finalist in the Prometheus Art Prize, 2011 and FEHVA Art Prize, 1993 - 2007. During 1991 - 1993 Emma established the Tukul Craft Workshop in Cairo, Egypt; a non-profit organization set up to train Sudanese refugees in the techniques of screen printing their traditional African designs and patterns onto range of products including bags, belts, cushion covers and T-shirts.

JACQUELINE HOUGHTON

 

The exhibition 'Emma Gale - Cultural Crossroads' is showing at Anthea Polson Art, Shop 120 Marina Mirage, Seaworld Drive Main Beach QLD 4217 (next to Marina Mirage), from January 11 - January 31 2014


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