The noise is loud. It’s distracting and at times unsettling. The gong of the su-su, the certainty we all have that we know what’s real and true, the illusion that this is firm ground we’re standing on, the fear that we are completely, completely wrong.
The noise is life. And it’s what you’re likely to find yourself thinking about after perusing Emile Hill’s latest show. The artist that a few years ago launched a photography book all about angels, dips his brush into more earthly and eclectic themes with a sense at once searching and sardonic.
I am moved to write of the noise of life as I consider Emile’s efforts to meld sound and visual, so that as your eyes catch on the piercing stare – daring or bravado, you’re not sure – of the subject in Titanium, you listen to Sia’s voice soaring over a deafening David Guetta rhythm (performing, what else, Titanium) through the headphones provided. The effect is to block out the world and draw you into the world of the painting. The world of the painting is always inspired by the world we live in, of course, but in the twisted way of dream, nightmare, projection – distorted, softened or hyper-focused in some way. Done well, it not only pulls you out of your world but pulls something out of you that is sometimes even hard for you to pin down. Why do we respond to this piece of art over that?
For me, the ones I responded to include the one I think of as the eerie (can’t remember its name) – its mixture of birds and mists pointing to gothic allusions; Sisterhood – a line of females half nude, so at ease in their natural skin, so at ease with each other that even as you admire the photographic storytelling – this was one of the few straight up photographs in the show – you jealously wish you were in that space with those women, a part of the sisterhood; and the denseness of Forest for the Trees, the world it projects, so big, you only belatedly notice the the girl – who is that girl, is she you? – at the edge of it.
The wry humour of pieces like Pregnant Pause and the one (again the name escapes me) about the lie/line between who we are and who we project to the world (this latter a visually quirky piece which with its juxtaposition of tea, the most formal and pretentious of beverages, and the use of a box as the head, also advertently or inadvertently says something about the affectations we ourselves take on and at the same time the boxes people try to put us in).
There is no clear, single narrative or technique, rather a sense of an artist exploring, adventuring, discovering, and that’s always interesting.
And if amidst all of it you find yourself sinking into ruminations on life, melancholic ruminations on what it is to be in this space of unencouraged potential and petty politics, and on what it is to be an artist in this space where art or even the impulse to create is neglected, well, that’s kind of the point isn’t it. The image from the show of the stripped figure, slumped shoulders, blue aura, taking off his (heavy, box) head like it’s the weight of the world, and putting it down becomes emblematic of what it all means, how it can weigh you down, everything, and how in the midst of that, being able to paint it, sing it, write it, express it in some way, is a gift.
So kudos to Hill for being able to ‘speak’ it in some way that ushers others into a conversation, not with him necessarily, or even with others, but with themselves.