School of the Arts undergraduate, Catherine Tully, has been sharing her thoughts about an art exhibition inspired by the University’s heritage collections and the personal memories of the artist, Emma Gregory, which is currently displayed in the Victoria Gallery and Museum (VG&M):
“Emma Gregory studied drawing and printmaking at Sir John Cass, Central School of Art and the University of Central Lancashire. Emma came to Liverpool to examine the University’s heritage collections, however, after suffering the loss of her father and grandmother, her work grew and reformed into a much more personal collection. Emma, speaking of her evolving work on the VG&M YouTube channel, stated that she was left trying to process her loss and wanted to make “them into something that I could take forward, and my default mechanism is to generate, to make stuff that I take forward.” She has commented that she began by looking through her family’s collections and built up her art from there.
“Emma’s work is a selection of prints, drawings, ceramics and archival items from her family history; as you walk around the collection the objects and pieces link together. They are a project of dedication. Her exhibition at the VG&M today is almost a preservation of her own individual heritage, a heritage that although deeply symbolic to Gregory is also widely appealing and inspiring to visitors.
“As I was following the guided route around the small exhibition room I began to feel the creative energy of Emma’s family. Each piece is a tribute to a different element or member of her family, from her Grandmother’s skills as a print block engraver to her family’s three legged china teapot. Emma has regenerated objects and given them a human significance; a new life. She revealed that “this exhibition is an attempt to put people into things that you can then keep, so you don’t lose them.”
“The first work that captured my attention was ‘Spoon’, a detailed monoprint made using her grandmother’s engraved blocks. We are told by Emma that the significance comes from her Gran teaching her how to print using a wooden spoon. The prints themselves journal her Grandmother’s life. I regarded this particular piece with a great sense of warmth as it brought back reminiscences of my own family and the creative escapades made at the kitchen table. The print, although so simply crafted and so personal to Emma herself, is unique in evoking personal thought and memories. On closer inspection each scene within the frame clearly has its own narrative to be pondered over. The simple address, wildlife or coastal scenes each possess a story that one can only guess at. The way Emma has layered the original prints with the shape of the spoon subtly over the top reflects the layers and various narratives in her grandmother’s life. This is an archive of a lifetime printed in one eye capturing piece of artwork.
“The collection also hosts a large portrait of Emma’s daughter; fashioned entirely from her grandparent’s buttons, it forms her daughter’s first ID photo. The striking creation spans three generations of Emma’s family and is surely a treasured piece that they will enjoy forever. It is a time capsule of her daughter and grandmother and perhaps the visual extension of Emma’s memories with them. Buttons are such a timeless item; they reside in sewing boxes and are often inadvertently passed on through generations. People often keep spare buttons from clothes that have long since expired with the hope that one day they may become useful. This is why the portrait is so intriguing; it reflects a tradition that is somewhat overlooked, a collection of miscellaneous objects. The different colours, shapes and sizes in Emma’s portrait form many levels and textures in the piece, perhaps each button reflects an individual memory, perhaps they come from significant clothing items that are symbolic and memorable to Emma or perhaps they will simply find new life in the artwork itself. Emma commented on her exhibition: “I hope you find something to find meaning in here. Try and think about the things that you’re keeping at home and why you’re keeping them. ”
Emma Gregory’s ‘Semi-Permanent Collections’ runs until Saturday, 2 April 2016, Tuesdays – Saturdays, in Gallery 5, on the first floor of the Victoria Gallery & Museum.
You can watch Emma Gregory talk about the exhibition whilst it was being installed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIRT6fZGziY
Further information about the exhibition is available at Emma Gregory’s blog which gives an insight into the items on display and the preparation for the show.