Emma Hart, BANGER, The Fruitmarket Gallery

By Anna Gilroy

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Currently on view at the Fruitmarket Gallery is BANGER, consisting of two series of works by the London-based artist Emma Hart. The artist has worked across a range of media, and here settles on ceramics, appropriating the traditional, fragile medium to create chaotic and imposing installations.

The most interesting part of the exhibition is Mamma Mia!, a work made during Hart’s residency in Italy after winning the Max Mara Art Prize for Women in 2016. Here, she worked with both expert ceramicists and psychoanalysts, and the result is an unusual and captivating conjunction of the decorative and the conceptual. Through much of her work, Hart seeks to express her own lived experiences, often finding it difficult to recognise her own life in calm, ordered gallery spaces. Having been awarded the prize for female artists, she also wanted to use this work to present the experience of being a woman.

Hollowed out heads hang from the ceiling, marked with measurements and projecting empty speech bubbles onto the floor. Moving throughout the space to look inside each monochrome head reveals bright, unique patterns painted within each one, reminiscent of Italian Maiolica tiles. The discrepancy between inside and out draws on conflicting ideas about the human psyche; whether we choose to represent and disguise, how our behaviours are patterned but also idiosyncratic, and how our minds can be so frenzied while our surroundings remain controlled. Hart lets this frenzy seep out, transforming the contemplative gallery into a claustrophobic, affronting space. She combines her training in Italian ceramic traditions with a contemporary employment of light and kinetic sculpture; dada-esque knives spin threateningly like ceiling fans just above head height. Hart states that she uses sculpture because it shares space and time with the viewer; here, the lights illuminate the viewer and project our shadows onto the wall, making us aware of who is looking at us while we look at the sculptures. Meanwhile, other works in the exhibition twist everyday imagery into disconcerting optical illusions.

As always, the Fruitmarket seeks to make the exhibition accessible and intelligible, and it is accompanied by a video of the artist eloquently explaining her process. BANGER is an exhibition of intriguing, multi-layered works that reward you for looking deeper.

Until 3rd February 2019, free admission.