Lily Brooke: Jemma Egan 'Family Member' (until 14th April 2019)
The various works, which span sculpture, video and print, have somehow tongue-in-cheek, charming titles, alluding to online selling listings, which is exemplified in a video piece in the front room. Its soundtrack is chiming and monotonous, almost like an audio equivalent of processing automatic words from an algorithm. Clearly defined black and white visuals create a very different tone to the rest of the delicate appearance of the rest of the exhibition. With moving and garbled text, its real value is in the audio which provides a dark backdrop for the exhibition, creating an immersive experience.
The place of inanimate objects in the home and the relationships they facilitate in the family unit is assessed in 'Family Member'. My favourite piece, titled 'Excellent condition, smoke free environment and not used by children', is a seemingly re-purposed vacuum cleaner hose with a fur head. In fact, the whole piece is instead modelled on a vacuum, and the fur aesthetic is thankfully a print rather than real, or faux, fur. This direct reference to Meret Oppenheim's 'Object' is hard to miss, and such an allusion to Surrealism provides the exhibition as a whole with a different angle. Tiny pewter dog sculptures displayed on a crisp white, slanted book shelf take on a new life in their appropriated size, frozen in time and used as neither pet nor toy. For a generally adult audience, the aforementioned nostalgia merges with a curiosity which makes the viewing experience spiral towards the surreal. Likewise with the second video 'Superb piece of kit' screened on the television in the gallery's back room, presenting an animated character resembling a Neopet blinking its eyes. Without context, it is certainly unnerving to see a toy interacting with the viewer as if alive and trapped. This combination of familiarity with small Surrealist-tinged details brings a great deal of intrigue to Egan's work and leaves the viewer wanting to go home and take a closer look at their domestic objects. As Andre Breton said, mundane things presented in unexpected ways have the power to challenge reason, and Egan continues the Surrealist legacy in ways that are themselves unanticipated.