Domobaal Gallery: Emma Talbot 'Step Inside Love' (until 6th June 2015)

The setting for Emma Talbot's first solo exhibition at Domobaal Gallery, WC1, is truly atmospheric and stunning, at times overwhelming the content of 'Step Inside Love', a show presenting a world "where fiction, real life and memory freely interact", an identifiable motif that emerges from the beginning of the exhibition. Combining painting, drawing and mixed media sculpture ensures that the viewer feels like they have truly entered Talbot's mindset, and where work is more conceptual, there is a sensation of having to contribute our own fictional, perhaps archetypal ideas (ie from films, soap operas), genuine anecdotes and memories in order to enhance and fully immerse ourselves within the works.

Two sets of four drawings meet the viewer at ground floor level and the first floor landing, as an effective introduction to Talbot's work and themes. While their initial visual impact resembles cartoons, careful consideration shows that they are illustrative of the clich├ęd social view of female sexual desire: irrational, animalistic, incomprehensible. This is an exciting prospect and opportunity for Talbot to quash these pseudo-scientific, ambivalent ideas and explore not only sexuality but love in its different forms. Generally, the different dimensions within the theme of 'love' are dealt with intensely and separately. One of the first images at the gallery is 'Speak to Me', a visually complex piece incorporating the written word within a flower using free lines and petals with the words 'oh' and 'yes' which connote both banality and the expressions of sexual pleasure.

Many of Talbot's drawings resemble comic strips and this ensures that the narrative is clear and linear, and easy to follow. In the first series, 'Chalet Bed' seems to depict intercourse; without being graphic, the sporadic lines imply a cacophony of messy emotions and ideas as a consequence of an impulsive action. This is where the fusion of fiction, reality and memory develops into its own complex, fresh entity, where the viewer is left inquisitve as to the (auto)biographical details inspiring the works. Intriguingly, the artist cites various and varying influences to her work, including Japanese Shunga, which is certainly evident in many of the drawings and paintings alike, and film noir.

'Dawn to Dusk' by Emma Talbot
Image courtesy of Domobaal Gallery

One of the more poignant artistic techniques employed by Talbot is the use of text, which features in the majority of the works within 'Step Inside Love', but some such as 'Dawn to Dusk' are comprised of solely text, producing a new, more literal form of the artist's role as raconteur. It is the main gallery space on the first floor which brings the climax of the exhibition. Amidst the compelling nature of Talbot's paintings and drawings, we encounter two sculptural works, 'Intangible Things (Ghost)' and 'Intangible Things (Dream)', which personally do not add vast qualities to the canvas pieces. Additionally, the paintings, filled with both watercolour and gouache paints and text, are not exhibited in a thematic way, as 'Open Air', the visual tale of a spontaneous, passionate seduction, is positioned next to 'The First Voice (Single Mother)', which is fairly self-explanatory in its juxtaposition.


'Open Air' by Emma Talbot
Image courtesy of Domobaal Gallery

Shapes acting as borders in 'Open Air' reiterate the aesthetic, decorative form of the content in each piece. Referring again to the artist's influences, we can see how Japanese Shunga, for one, was a highly decorative strategy in conveying the euphemism and delicate nature of sex. It is clear that Talbot's canvases present relationships in their various forms in ways that reflect popular culture, so that these messages can be depicted to her viewers. However it is the added tone and text that make each piece personal and seemingly anecdotal.


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