Das Platforms / Contemporary Art

Emma McPike: 'Truth North' at Oktachoron Gallery

by Christina Chau

19 Dec 2011

Oktachoron Gallery, Perth, 30 September – 30 October 2011.

Emma McPike’s first solo show at Oktachoron Gallery in Northbridge, Perth, reminisces on growing up in Perth’s northern suburbs. Her personal photographs have been worked through a process of collage and colour separation to produce layered and saturated prints of emptied swimming pools, quintessential Australian backyards, pool parties and palm trees describe a suburban Australia that we all know: with silverside and pineapple, warm beer bottles, the skin singeing metal on hills hoists and tin sheds out back, the smell of dead ants mixed with leaves burning in the sun.

The slippage between the banal and deeply personalised memories of the Australian suburban backyard, is carefully manipulated throughout the exhibition. Her screen prints, collaged inkjet transfers and soft ground etchings present an enquiry of remembering these spaces and times of earlier times. The use of repetition, collage and colour separation rewrite, blur and patch over the compositions of the original memories. The outcome of this alludes to the paradox of memory; the act of remembering at times writes over the original experience, until the memory is a collection of remembrances.

McPike’s works includes icons that many associate with growing up, but through time have inevitably drifted away from these summer rituals. Possible Pools, a stenciled four colour separation print, collages together a group of teenagers sitting on the edge of a backyard swimming pool; a cluster of rashies, bikinis and boardies. The saturated blue of the pool and sky in conjunction to the high contrast of this print points to the intensity of these memories, even when the details of faces, conversations and expressions cannot be easily identified.

The suburbs of Perth have not changed a great deal over the past twenty years, but they have rolled on to connect Perth with neighbouring cities, both north and south. To grow up in one of these new or expanding suburbs means that half built model homes often become a child’s domain – up until the carpet is rolled and final furniture placed. Until then, unfinished homes are spaces for playing; war games, hide and seek and limbo under scaffold bars.

To remember these banal and iconic spaces is both an action of reference and deference from such experiences. McPike’s works Interchangeable Idealism, and True North point to the act of remembering as both returning to and recoding these memories. The tones within these images are modulated to simplify their compositions, to which McPike traces over, and builds new impressions and details over them.