L'Étrangère Gallery: Emma Hart and Jonathan Baldock 'SUCKERZ' (until 1st August 2015)
My first encounter with the work of one of the exhibition's artists, Emma Hart, who is concurrently exhibiting at the Austrian Cultural Forum this summer, was her 'M20 Death Drives' installation in 2012 at the Art Exchange in Essex. I still have vivid memories of the piece, with its quick sonic effects and conveying a distinct feel of real peril. The essence of the real is always present in Hart's work, making her art initially accessible and visually appealing. Part of this appeal is that much of 'SUCKERZ' is enlarged body parts, something that has been a solid, politicised feature in contemporary art for some time. However the way in which this exhibition at L'Étrangère is presented is distinctly coherent, as the viewer is aware of flesh-like colours from the moment they step inside the gallery doors. With all the pinks, yellows and browns in the palette, everything seems almost edible, thus enticing the viewer further.
Features of the body and actual food items (potatoes, Ferrero Rocher...) become one, and having visited the exhibit on a sweltering, hot day, there were certainly attacks on more than one sense. There is an entirely bizarre sensation prevalent throughout, where it is uncertain as to whether pieces refer to cannibalism, fetishism or personification of some kind. Trying to assess these secondary ideas makes the experience of the exhibition more compelling on a profound level. Distinguishing between the real and the synthetic appears to be an ongoing discussion throughout 'SUCKERZ', especially viewing the banquet table which inhabits a large part of the front gallery space, as plates and cutlery resembling nipples, eyes and hair become static forms.