Emily Motto


A Sketch for a Window


Chalton Gallery, London

19 December 2018 - 12 January 2019

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The subtitle for this exhibition by London based artist, Emily Motto, is highly functional, as the exhibition is, quite clearly, a sketch for a window. When you look through the glass fronted entrance of Charlton Gallery, the varying sculptural forms and colours draw together to create a unified scene. Despite being a stationary installation, it appeared to be alive, as though a gentle breeze could flutter aspects of this multidimensional environment into motion, and if fed properly, the structure would thrive. There are tall cylindrical shapes, comparable to Roman columns, and a digital quality to the view, due to pixilated colour pools of imagery hung from paper reams. These aspects are webbed through coloured string, tapes and white painted branches that fall from the ceiling. Large cardboard towers bend around the room, and a weaved piece of cardboard, sculpted like honeycomb, rests aright on the floor. The constellation of components flattens to one image reminiscent of nowhere and somewhere simultaneously, whilst appearing firmly precarious and stable at once.  


There is a painterly quality to this scene, remindful of the memory of staring up at the big blue sky, with bulbous white clouds, only to be surprised by a warm piercing beam of sunlight; it all comes together and exudes a sense of time and place. When wandering around the exhibition, stepping comfortably over the artworks, there is a sense of synergy amongst the components. It appeared as a coactive space, with cardboard towers that bend and fold like a gymnast's limbs, with large stretches and surprising bends that hold their shape and potentiality around the various elements. A branch hangs from the ceiling, though in the space the branch guises as a pendulum that resembles a bone - it brought the image of a goat’s bony leg to my mind. On the floor, there are large rings, similar to the scale of a tree trunk, and within one of these rings, a coil outwardly winds and droops down the cylinder's rim akin to the how a dog's tongue limply hangs out a mouth before recoiling. The imagery made me wonder if there was a philosophical, devotional or ritualistic quality to this scene, due to the evocation of animals, used by old masters to denote meaning – or, if my imagination was being too active; a symptom of the exhibition.  


Within the exhibition the mediums of painting and sculpture mingled together. Rosalind Krauss’ eloquent words came to mind, “sculpture and painting have been kneaded and stretched and twisted in an extraordinary definition of elasticity” from her widely referenced essay, Sculpture in the Expanded Field (1978). In Emily's work, which I will not attempt to qualify as either one of these mediums, these physical words by Krauss come to play, as the structural form of this installation holds latent movement. Additionally, in each position I stood in the exhibition, the architecture changed, and a new feature, such as a flash of purple tape, or a twig poking out a tall cardboard tube with a brush of light blue paint on came to the fore. Perhaps this is due to the careful spatial distribution of objects which appear to fall into one another. Yet, shapes also protrude out, like a devious child’s tongue, taking you by a pleasing surprise.  


Though different to a painting, the installation responded to the gallery’s scale oppose to the borders of a canvas frame. The floor is covered in grey paper which points towards the formation of this exhibition. The residue of blue paint and plaster remain on the floor, that indicated to how this “sketch” has been built; the gallery seemed to have absorbed the process. Colour folds around the space - something that immediately struck me upon entry. Soft pinks from the plaster and gentle blues hark to the rich distribution of colour seen in nature. The is a surreal quality to the exhibition, as these sculptures possess a symbiotic quality harking towards natural forms once again. Both the use of colour and spatiality within Emily's work, I found, had a distant resemblance to some of Miró’s drawings and paintings due to the poetic qualities of this installation.


Holdfast was comparable to wandering around a painting rather than a sculptural installation as there is a fantasy element to where this installation conjures for the viewer, be it a big blue sky or somewhere else. There is also a similarity to Robert Morris’ work Untitled (1965) in which large, unadorned, mirrored cubes appeared to manifest from the exhibition space in which they were shown; reflecting the very surfaces, edges, matter and colours that surrounded each object. Emily’s work seems to invert this role for the viewer, as they are invited to peer into her work, which spreads outwards from the self-made floor it rests upon. The work is like an organic structure slipping its way into new territory. It does not reflect its surroundings, but it contemplates its own interpretation, by being a sketch for a window. 

Revised: 23.04.19