artist emily motto talks pixels, positions and play-doh

As Ruskin graduate Emily Motto opens her exhibition Postures at Rice + Toye Gallery today we meet up with the artist to delve into her world of wonderful sculptures.

by Lily Bonesso
19 June 2015, 2:30am

Postures is a series of digital images translated into three-dimensional, monstrously large and strangely enticing crumpled forms. The inclusion of digital elements, seen in the pixelated surfaces of the sculptures, makes your eyes blur as it tries to bring the image into focus. The pixels contribute to the contoured landscape of each piece; they warp and distort in your eyeline, strange, bulbous and shimmering.

This will be the Emily Motto's fourth solo show, and her twenty-fourth exhibition to date. This includes being selected for the Bloomberg New Contemporaries show at the ICA; a pretty astounding accomplishment for someone who only graduated from her BA last June. You'd think she's been working in a mad rush to produce all this work, but the unfinished elements of each piece are not down to carelessness at all. Some coloured masking tape on the wall, an unfinished ball of wool or rips in the paper are her way of leaving traces of making which remind us of the presence of the artist. The exhibition feels complete, despite or perhaps because of these finishing-unfinished-touches.

Postures is digital art brought into real world physicality. Nevertheless this physicality feels organic, like giant seed pods which have dried up in the sun. Motto creates tactile shapes, which you instinctively want to squeeze, sink your fingers into and crunch between your palms. Many of her installations entice the viewer in this way. Motto actually describes them "attention seeking", which makes sense because they feel weirdly alive. Along with an eye-watering colour palette, it's not only the kids that want to put the artworks in their mouths.

Motto brings together the unlikely combination of considered and carefree, and so her work, in a similar contradiction, is flawed and perfect all at once.

What would you like to make if money, space and time where no object?
I've thought about this one a lot. I actually made a proposal for the ICA to build a massive maze out of mesh and have loads of play-doh which people could push through either side of the walls so that as they walked through the piece it would evolve. It would be a continually changing sculpture depending on who was going through it and where they were moving, and it would map their walking spaces. I guess I hadn't thought exactly about where it would go but it should be somewhere really light which would make the colours shine.

Tell us about some materials you've really enjoyed working with.
I used dough and let it rise through netting to make Extruded form with heavy head. Something I quite liked about it was that it was made from a material that could be consumed but was also very temporary and could go off. It had a time limit and could change over time. Actually as it dried out more and more it cracked, this made it really difficult to move, so it became more precarious when it was shown at the later stages, which I found quite exciting.

In Postures I've also been layering pink netting together and it makes that moire effect where it almost blurs, or creates patterns in your vision - I love using this stitched, very physical and tactile effect next to the printed, pixelated images of the larger pieces.

Have you ever imagined a material you wanted to use and not been able to find it anywhere?
Yes actually, I really wanted to find play-doh that was clear - something which occupied space, and had a body, but was also malleable and completely transparent. In the end I used clear silicone. I used it to make these clear bubbles but it wasn't really the material I wanted… Yeah so I never quite found my clear play-doh!

Tell us about Postures?
I wanted to create an environment with bulky, physical forms, which really consume and interrupt a viewing space. I was thinking a lot about the documentation of my sculpture and how they become images after the event and I thought postures was quite a good title because the works use images as their surfaces. I wanted to explore the idea of the front of a sculpture and how they pose a front to the viewer. The definition of posture is amazing - it is "a particular body position", and that works with the bulky, invasive atmosphere created sculpturally but also posture is 'to misrepresent', like pose or put forward a front, which I think sometimes images can do.

What are the images of?
They're images of people that I found online - but as I've been playing about with them and stitching them into these shapes the content of the images gets removed and the pixels begin to function sculpturally too and they become quite distant from their original source. The process of finding them is important though, because they're images that I've seen and that I've been influenced by.

What are you working on next after this show closes?
I'm working on a piece for Brainchild Festival at the moment which I will be installing when it opens on July 10th. I'll be making a cube out of scaffolding which will have dependant bulbous forms on the corners which people can walk around and inside and attach things to and change the shape of. I think a festival is the perfect environment to invite people to contribute to an artwork. I am hoping it will develop over the weekend as more people get involved. I like the idea of making something in a relative space - in the space that we occupy - that's something that's really important to a lot of my work and hopefully will come through in this.

As Ruskin graduate Emily Motto opens her exhibition Postures at Rice + Toye Gallery today we meet up with the artist to delve into her world of wonderful sculptures.


Text Lily Bonesso

lily bonesso
emily motto
rice and toye gallery