Emma Hart: Dirty Looks at Camden Arts Centre

Backwash, 2012

Tongues sealing paper as a loved one licks a letter shut, tongue trowels digging up cement slabs, tongues like ties: tongue-tied? Two tongues to make a rosette – the Best in the Show – tongues as handles, which if tugged upon could open an MDF cupboard; next to which other members of the MDF home suite are only just managing to contain a cascade of ceramic tongues.


Who knew a tongue could be so flexible? Well, OK, we’ve been told it. But who had imagined that a tongue could be so flexible an artistic motif and who knew – as a result of which – the tongue could be quite so tantalising? Well, Emma Hart did.


I mean what exactly is she playing at you may ask? Certainly, she’s playing with the surrealist’s tools: distortion, dislocation, general disarray, by aligning sculpture, photography and film; originally spongy surfaces with a new solid ceramic surrounds; the domestic and inanimate, with the bodily, the animated.


These tongues come in all shapes and sizes: some slim and pale, some scaly and aged, some speckly. But one thing I’m glad they’re not is phallic. Despite anything the sexy-sounding exhibition name Dirty Looks suggests; they’re simply fun and surprisingly innocent.


Yes there’s more to Dirty Looks then ‘spot the tongue’, but also don’t let me spoil ‘Dirty Looks’ with sillily serious suggestions. There may be many things the artist intended for the work, but quite frankly the best thing about it, is it’s high-spirited ingenuity. I think Hart’s having somewhat of a giggle, and thanks to which we are all the more merry.


So, let the tongues wag about Emma Hart.


Emma Hart: Dirty Looks is on at Camden Arts Centre until 29 September 2013.


Image: Backwash, 2012 by Emma Hart, courtesy of the gallery.


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