Emily Spykman


Emily (United States) makes sculptures, paintings, drawings and installations. By choosing mainly formal solutions, Emily uses a visual vocabulary that addresses many different social and political issues. The work incorporates time as well as space – a fictional and experiential universe that only emerges bit by bit.

Her collected, altered and own sculptures are being confronted as aesthetically resilient, thematically interrelated material for memory and projection. The possible seems true and the truth exists, but it has many faces, as Hanna Arendt cites from Franz Kafka. With a subtle minimalistic approach, she considers making art a craft which is executed using clear formal rules and which should always refer to social reality.

Her practice provides a useful set of allegorical tools for manoeuvring with a pseudo-minimalist approach in the world of sculpture: these meticulously planned works resound and resonate with images culled from the fantastical realm of imagination. By contesting the division between the realm of memory and the realm of experience, she seduces the viewer into a world of ongoing equilibrium and the interval that articulates the stream of daily events. Moments are depicted that only exist to punctuate the human drama in order to clarify our existence and to find poetic meaning in everyday life.

Her works are based on formal associations which open a unique poetic vein. Multilayered images arise in which the fragility and instability of our seemingly certain reality is questioned. By focusing on techniques and materials, she tries to develop forms that do not follow logical criteria, but are based only on subjective associations and formal parallels, which incite the viewer to make new personal associations.

Her works bear strong political references. The possibility or the dream of the annulment of a (historically or socially) fixed identity is a constant focal point. By exploring the concept of landscape in a nostalgic way, she creates work in which a fascination with the clarity of content and an uncompromising attitude towards conceptual and minimal art can be found. The work is aloof and systematic and a cool and neutral imagery is used.

Her works establish a link between the landscape’s reality and that imagined by its conceiver. These works focus on concrete questions that determine our existence. By referencing romanticism, grand-guignolesque black humour and symbolism, she absorbs the tradition of remembrance art into daily practice. This personal follow-up and revival of a past tradition is important as an act of meditation.

Her works are notable for their perfect finish and tactile nature. This is of great importance and bears witness to great craftsmanship. By emphasising aesthetics, she investigates the dynamics of landscape, including the manipulation of its effects and the limits of spectacle based on our assumptions of what landscape means to us. Rather than presenting a factual reality, an illusion is fabricated to conjure the realms of our imagination.

Her works are often classified as part of the new romantic movement because of the desire for the local in the unfolding globalized world. However, this reference is not intentional, as this kind of art is part of the collective memory. By merging several seemingly incompatible worlds into a new universe, she creates work through labour-intensive processes which can be seen explicitly as a personal exorcism ritual. They are inspired by a nineteenth-century tradition of works, in which an ideal of ‘Fulfilled Absence’ was seen as the pinnacle.

Her works sometimes radiate a cold and latent violence. At times, disconcerting beauty emerges. The inherent visual seductiveness, along with the conciseness of the exhibitions, further complicates the reception of their manifold layers of meaning. Emily currently lives and works in Austin.