Artist to Watch: Emma McGuire

by Tangie Silva

While Frieze in New York came and went in its usual whirlwind, The Daily spotted a standout artist, Emma McGuire, who hasn’t left these shores as quickly as the rest, but chooses to split her time between London and the city while exclusively showing with Georges Bergès Gallery. McGuire’s latest offering, “Female Warrior Army Series,” is housed in none other than the United Nations, and is a statement on gender equality. She fills us in…

Your latest series is showing at the UN…tell us more!
I am really excited to be working with the UN gender equality; it is something I feel very passionately about. The series currently consists of heads made from cement fondu facing the same faces etched into copper. #F5F5DC is the code for beige in PhotoShop. I am discussing as well as challenging the notion of homogenized beauty.

How did you end up showing with Georges Bergès Gallery?
I met Georges Bergès through a friend of mine, Mario Mercado, who spoke to me and The Duke of Devonshire, who also hosted my “In Motion” exhibition in NYC.

When did you decide you wanted to be an artist?
I’m not sure that anyone really decides to be an artist, but I have always made things and grew up with a love of materials and experimenting. I have been working as an artist for about 15 years.

What’s the story behind your work in the private collection in the Duke’s Chatworth House?
The series is titled XXXX and it features images of MMA fighters, which I had initially taken here in New York with the Renzo Gracie fight club. The Duke has been a patron of mine for many years; he is a strong supporter of young emerging artists.

XXXX focuses on cage fighting. How did that happen, and more importantly, would you ever get in the cage?
I had the privilege of working with boxers a few years ago at the Repton Boxing Club in London’s East End, and when the opportunity came up to work with MMA fighters I jumped at it. I am interested in the contradictions of human nature…the grey areas, the parts that, regardless of technology, are intrinsic to being alive—visceral elements such as food, sex, and fighting.

The media you use for art runs the gamut…
Photography [was my first] as my grandad worked for Kodak in Rochester, NY so I grew up with a camera in my hand. I specialized in photography and printmaking at university and at the Royal College of Art. I’ve always loved working with lots of different materials printing on metal, glass, and wood, so working sculpturally seems to be the natural progression.

You cite Francis Bacon and Robert Mapplethorpe as main influences…do tell!
Bacon’s work invokes a strong emotional response. [His paintings] are expressive, vulnerable, and explore themes of humanity, sexuality and religion. And Mapplethorpe captured form exquisitely and confronted themes of sexuality, which has had a strong influence on my work.

What do you hope people will get from looking at the works of In Motion?
I would love for them to be surprised and intrigued. I hope the different series discuss elements of of human nature and cultural understanding of identity, sex/gender, and beauty.

How did you come across mono-photography?
I broke my ankle and couldn’t move from my flat, so I experimented with what I had done…the opposite of what you are told to do, and I loved the outcome! This was a while ago, so I have been able to do it with the support of the University of East London, where I am a senior lecturer, and play with technology on a larger scale. I love the organic and almost magical effects you can achieve with it. I am in the process of writing up this and other experimental techniques I have been working with.

You split your time between NY and London. Any fave spots?
I love walking around New York and discovering new little corners. Soho House, Omar’s, Renzo’s gym, and The Walker Hotel for a nice glass of wine. [In London], The Green Papaya is my fave Vietnamese restaurant…it has the best crispy shrimp with purple basil dressing ever! I have been in the studio 24/7 as of late, so it’s there or my friend’s wine bar The Bonneville, or when my best mate Smokin Jo is DJ’ing I’ll get my dancing shoes!

What’s your fashion style? Any favorite designers?
Street-style torn jeans and a T-shirt. My bestie is Lars Andersson, so loads of his beautiful knitwear. [For evening], Ann Demeulemeester, Haider Ackermann, Damir Doma…lots of leather leggings!

Do you consider fashion designers artists in their own way?
Fashion designers are artists! Issey Miyake, Yoji Yamamoto, Iris van Herpen and Saint Laurent’s most recent collection [by Alessandro Michele] I loved! The furs as sculptural objects…I could go on forever!

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