MArk Tanner Sculpture Award: Jemma Brown

16 Sep 2011 – 22 Oct 2011

Standpoint Gallery

London, United Kingdom


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  • Old Street / Liverpool Street

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Jemima Brown is known for her sculptural explorations of the animate versus inanimate, orchestrating the complex visual narratives involved in self- (and indeed other- ) creation. In earlier work she used a plastic twin doppelganger named 'Dolly' to explore how an avatar might take on a life of its own, and ultimately become her collaborator in the authorship of artwork. The Tanner Award has facilitated significant developments at a pivotal point in Brown's practice, particularly in experimenting with resizing certain components of the sculptures, to investigate the role of scale, surface and materials within formal sculptural decision-making, and how these questions intersect with the more narrative elements in the work. Constructed via a complex series of interwoven processes (including casting from life, 3D imaging and printing, modeling, found materials and textile design) Brown's sculptural work is often situated with a larger ‘set' or dialogue. New sculptures such as 'What if Mary Cecilia Didn't Jump?' (Image 2nd left) are accompanied by drawings and paintings, using the graphic image as a component in the assemblage. In an ongoing drawing project since 2009, Brown experiments with a visual translation of a virtual social structure in a series of drawings of Facebook profile pictures. These portraits act as a fascinating mirror to the new Starlet series of tabletop sculptures, whose protagonists ‘create' their dramatis personae through flamboyant fur wraps, gold jesmonite dresses and heavy eye make-up. Displayed alongside these miniaturised figures are paintings that reveal the fantasies they aspire to — certain glamorous actresses from the heyday of Hollywood. Looking back to the Facebook drawings we see a comparable act of self-creation made visible, hinting at the increased anxiety of contemporary life, where our image is available to a vast public arena, intensifying the need to create a compelling vision of ‘who we are'. Brown's use of several media in an assemblage style reflects the layers of conscious and subconscious desires, fears and fantasies that go toward each individual's attempt to make an saleable identity in an increasingly consumerist and judgmental globalised culture. Speaking of our contradictory desires for individuality and belonging - to stand out and to fit in, Brown invests heavily in particularities of costume and detail. The ‘failure' of certain figures is thus all the more telling. Initially seduced by the convincing resemblance, the viewer comes to notice that a figure is missing a limb, or has a body that fades off into nothingness, or that this similitude reaches only as far as the ears. Reflecting a long- term interest in personal identity, street culture and social relationships, Brown questions how sustainable, how ‘authentic' our personas are, or whether the pressure to keep up the facade comes a heavy price.

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