Lily Brooke: Jemma Egan 'Family Member' (until 14th April 2019)

London-based artist Jemma Egan's solo show at Lily Brooke marks my second exhibition review in a row from a domestic gallery space. These spaces surely reflect the changing landscape of the art world, whether this is how we consume, view and purchase art or the ways in which it is approached and made by artists. In any case, the fact that Egan's new works are being displayed in a house enhances their quality, as there is a real focus on the domestic, and an exploration on how consumerism plays its apparently insidious part in childhood.

Jemma Egan, I had a little play with him today and absolutely fell in love all over again, 2019. Pewter (in some cases with additional epoxy putty features), dimensions variable. 

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.

Installation view: Jemma Egan, I don't have the time to get him back to the condition he deserves to be in, 2019. HD video, 6mins, with soundtrack 'Max is a good lad' by Sophie Mallett, edition of 3.

 A supporting text by Sarah Rose is in the place of a press release, which delves into the nostalgia of childhood toys, most specifically the Tamagotchi in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The ways in which consumer culture are integrated into childhood since this time is a sad reminder of something we surely already knew but of course would not have considered at the time, other than the feeling of  alienation when the latest gadgets and toys weren't available to us.

Installation view: Jemma Egan, Excellent condition, smoke free environment and not used by children, 2019. Silicone rubber, hydro dipped polyurethane resin, 110cm x 26cm.

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.

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