September’s Featured Work is Get Back In Your Shell Like by Emma Hart. This wall-mounted ceramic satellite dish continues Hart’s work with pattern, a major field of investigation within her practice. Seeking to explore the potential of pattern beyond the decorative, Hart makes use of its aesthetic of accumulation as a tool to reflect on our contemporary condition.

Get Back In Your Shell Like by Emma Hart

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The surface of Hart’s work is glazed with a bold motif showing a repeated figure whispering in the ear of an identical figure next to it, which whispers in the ear of the next, and so forth. The repetition suggests it may in fact be the same character whispering in its own ear over and over, trapped in an endless feedback loop or infinite echo chamber. At the same time, the slippages between foreground and background within the design make it hard to distinguish what is important, a common side effect of today’s constant flow of information.

The satellite dish acts as a conduit relaying messages from the outside world into the private space of the home, represented here by the keyhole on the arm of the dish. Hart is interested in television as an intimate medium that we give space to within our homes. Through television, we are able to process public events in a private way. Describing its special status, Hart points out that ‘we cry in front of the television.’

The work takes its title from the phrase, ‘get back in your cell’, and cockney rhyming slang for ear, ‘shell like’. As such, it evokes a sense of being imprisoned by technology or stuck in your own head, an effect reinforced by the bars that run across the length of the work. These bars also recall the interference that, in the past, occasionally interrupted broadcasts on analogue televisions and VHS recordings.

This was the first pattern Hart designed following on from Mamma Mia!, her 2017 solo exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery, and the first in a broader series of satellite dishes that was first exhibited at Frieze London in 2017.

Emma Hart was born in London and originally studied Photography at Croydon College of Art, before completing her Masters at the Slade School, and later, a PhD in Fine Art at Kingston University. Although she only began working with clay a few years ago, it has since become her signature medium. In 2015, she was awarded a Paul Hamlyn Foundation award for Visual Art. She won the prestigious Max Mara Art Prize for Women in collaboration with the Whitechapel Gallery and Collezione Maramotti in 2016. The prize awarded her a six-month residency in Italy, for which she spent time in the ceramics studios of Faenza, a town famed for its ‘majolica’ tin-glazed pottery, and the Scuola Mara Selvini Palazzoli in Milan, a leading centre for family therapy that seeks to identify and map patterns of behaviour.