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Emily Mayer, Out of Context

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Emily Mayer, Out of Context
Emily Mayer, Out of Context Campden Gallery, fine art, Chipping Campden, camden gallery, contemporary, contemporary arts, contemporary art, artists, painting, sculpture, abstract painting, gloucestershire,  cotswolds, painting for sale, artwork for sale, modern art gallery, art exhibitions,arts gallery, gallery art, art gallery UK
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I'll always remember my first visit to Emily Mayer's house. She lives in a big brick Victorian building: a former workhouse-hospital standing among flat fields and dark woods under wide Norfolk skies.

Piloted by a pack of tiny busy terriers, I picked my way through her studio. Huge tables were piled with an endless sprawl of clutter: with chunks of metal and jars of chemicals, tangles of driftwood and scribbled drawings, boxes of glass eyes, coils of rope, over-spilling ashtrays and abandoned coffee mugs. Hooks and pulleys dangled from the great ceiling hoists.

We went through to the kitchen at the far end. "You couldn't just fetch the dog food from the freezer”, she asked me. So I did, trotting down the stone flags, past a cage where a shy collared dove was recuperating from a road accident, past the rows of old photographs and antique plan chests, past the old sheepdog asleep on its blanket under the bench.

I opened the freezer. There inside, shrouded in plastic like Snow White in her glass coffin, lay an iced-up wallaby. I picked the dog food out - a little warily perhaps - and returned. The old collie still hadn't stirred. I bent down to stroke its grizzled head. It was hard and cold.

And that was my first encounter with one of Mayer's pieces of taxidermy. Rosie, a faithful old family pet had been sent to her to be preserved but, a bit like some abandoned puppy, had never been picked up. Now she sleeps her eternal sleep on a rumpled pink blanket, part of a slightly gruesome menagerie which over the years has embraced anything from the rats which steal along the stem of the angle-poise lamp through the cat that seeps blood on the taxidermist's table to the tiny brown terrier which packs into a suitcase. The wallaby, a feral escapee killed by some careless driver, had been sent by a friend and was eventually restored to an alert life-in-death fixity. But the dove survived thanks to her care and two weeks after my visit, it was set free in the woods.

Taxidermy has moved a long way away from its Victorian incarnation. Those sad relics that glare, dusty-eyed, from mantelpiece domes seem like moth-eaten symbols of how crudely our predecessors stuffed the world with their preconceptions. A new generation of taxidermists have developed the old skills. And Emily Mayer is among the foremost of these contemporary practitioners. Year after year she wins the prizes that prove it.

She has developed a pioneering new style of taxidermy known as erosion moulding. Painstakingly pinning the dead animal into a natural pose, she smears it all over with a viscous solution which sets solid. Inside, all that remains - skin included - is left to decompose.

Mayer then coats the hollowed interior of the animal with a thin layer of tough resin before finally dissolving the rubbery covering. A careful blow dry and some fluffing and combing of feathers or fur and the animal re-emerges looking almost miraculously real.

Mayer has never killed anything for her trade. But she can transform a dismal lump of spiny road-kill back into a bustling round-bottomed hedgehog and she can give the glossy rooks which the gamekeeper destroys as troublesome vermin a new form of life. A gang of them eye you beadily from an old wooden gate in her studio. They seem almost to bob and shift about. One of them tugs playfully at a tassel of old baling twine. Mayer has captured their movements with meticulous precision. She has seen every swagger, hop and jape. She has watched their impish tricks.

It is the attentiveness of the naturalist as much as the technique of the craftsman that she brings to her work. Mayer has loved wildlife ever since she was a child when, crouched in the rain, she would stroke slippery slugs, or bent over the kitchen table, draw dead field mice. And she has far too much respect for living creatures to take liberties with their corpses. She has no desire to adapt their wild natures to an anthropomorphic harness.

But many years have passed since she mastered her craft. And now, searching for something more, she takes taxidermy into artistic domains. She is no longer interested simply in the perfect replica. Mayer, who trained as a fine artist, wants her work to explore more uncomfortable ideas. Not for her the tremble-whiskered rodent that poses amid its fake foliage forest. Mayer is seeking a far starker realism. She wants to capture a sense of life - and death - as it really is; to present the facts without flinching and, by focusing on our human relationship with the animals that surround us, to put them to challenging effect.

That cat on the worktop, for instance, is dead. Blood seeps from its nostril and an eye is partly dislodged. It lies amid the scattered instruments of the taxidermist's trade a picture of death made dramatically real. The little dog in the suitcase may at a cursory glance look rather sweet. But the longer you look the more sinister it feels. ‘Final Voyage - Precious Cargo’ is the title of this piece. Twice, dead dogs have been packaged and delivered to Mayer in this manner. The sculpture not only alludes to this, but also offers a damning commentary on our quite literally suffocating sentimentality about pets. Too often owners, anxious to avoid quarantine, try to smuggle their animals through customs in cases. When they open them up, they find they have killed the thing that they most love.

It is this search for something more than mere replication that has provoked Mayer to return again and again to her found-object sculpture. Some of these pieces take years to assemble. From the disparate heaps of driftwood, scrap-metal, bits of leather, dismembered farm implements, machine parts and broken domestic objects that lie about in her studio she painstakingly fits together parts to evoke the essence of a creature: the scoops and spades and spatulas of bones, the rope-over sinews; the muscles that ratchet and slack.

When the sculpture is finished, the animal cannot necessarily be precisely identified. That bird with the burnt-out tyre for a back, for instance: it's not a bittern or a merganser or a penguin or cormorant. And yet you will recognise the dark, oily hunch of the water bird as surely as you would recognise the real creature, spotted for a few seconds among marshy reeds. Mayer's sculptures are not about the outside. They evoke the inner spirit of the animal.

But can this ever be captured? Mayer asks herself that question. In The Critics she recreates, using taxidermy, a pair of brown rats. She sends them out on an impudent investigation of a found-object sculpture. Mayer turns her ironic gaze upon her own pieces. But she offers no straightforward answers.

Rachel Campbell –Johnston, Art Critic – The Times, October 2007

Emily Mayer: Sea Watch Campden Gallery, fine art, Chipping Campden, camden gallery, contemporary, contemporary arts, contemporary art, artists, painting, sculpture, abstract painting, gloucestershire,  cotswolds, painting for sale, artwork for sale, modern art gallery, art exhibitions,arts gallery, gallery art, art gallery UK Emily Mayer: The Critics Campden Gallery, fine art, Chipping Campden, camden gallery, contemporary, contemporary arts, contemporary art, artists, painting, sculpture, abstract painting, gloucestershire,  cotswolds, painting for sale, artwork for sale, modern art gallery, art exhibitions,arts gallery, gallery art, art gallery UK Emily Mayer: The Critics (Detail) Campden Gallery, fine art, Chipping Campden, camden gallery, contemporary, contemporary arts, contemporary art, artists, painting, sculpture, abstract painting, gloucestershire,  cotswolds, painting for sale, artwork for sale, modern art gallery, art exhibitions,arts gallery, gallery art, art gallery UK Emily Mayer: Puppy Campden Gallery, fine art, Chipping Campden, camden gallery, contemporary, contemporary arts, contemporary art, artists, painting, sculpture, abstract painting, gloucestershire,  cotswolds, painting for sale, artwork for sale, modern art gallery, art exhibitions,arts gallery, gallery art, art gallery UK
Sea Watch
Plastic, rubber, steel, wood, stone
70 x 49 x 38 cm
The Critics
Wood, steel, leather, copper, epoxy resin, hair, lamp
68.3 x 87.3 x 22.2 cm
The Critics (Detail)
Wood, steel, leather, copper, epoxy resin, hair, lamp
68.3 x 87.3 x 22.2 cm
Puppy
Steel
56.5 x 153 x 75 cm
Emily Mayer: Plas-tic-tockus Campden Gallery, fine art, Chipping Campden, camden gallery, contemporary, contemporary arts, contemporary art, artists, painting, sculpture, abstract painting, gloucestershire,  cotswolds, painting for sale, artwork for sale, modern art gallery, art exhibitions,arts gallery, gallery art, art gallery UK Emily Mayer: Corvus corium Campden Gallery, fine art, Chipping Campden, camden gallery, contemporary, contemporary arts, contemporary art, artists, painting, sculpture, abstract painting, gloucestershire,  cotswolds, painting for sale, artwork for sale, modern art gallery, art exhibitions,arts gallery, gallery art, art gallery UK Emily Mayer: Galliphoenix Campden Gallery, fine art, Chipping Campden, camden gallery, contemporary, contemporary arts, contemporary art, artists, painting, sculpture, abstract painting, gloucestershire,  cotswolds, painting for sale, artwork for sale, modern art gallery, art exhibitions,arts gallery, gallery art, art gallery UK Emily Mayer: Otus stickii Campden Gallery, fine art, Chipping Campden, camden gallery, contemporary, contemporary arts, contemporary art, artists, painting, sculpture, abstract painting, gloucestershire,  cotswolds, painting for sale, artwork for sale, modern art gallery, art exhibitions,arts gallery, gallery art, art gallery UK
Plas-tic-tockus
Wood, plastic, steel
79 x 44 x 41.5 cm
Corvus corium
Leather, steel, wood, rubber
117 x 76 x 44 cm
Galliphoenix
Wood, glass, steel
37 x 35 x 10.8 cm
Otus stickii
Wood, copper, steel
78 x 20.7 x 20.7 cm
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Emily Mayer: Otus stickii (detail) Campden Gallery, fine art, Chipping Campden, camden gallery, contemporary, contemporary arts, contemporary art, artists, painting, sculpture, abstract painting, gloucestershire,  cotswolds, painting for sale, artwork for sale, modern art gallery, art exhibitions,arts gallery, gallery art, art gallery UK Emily Mayer: Final Voyage - Precious Cargo Campden Gallery, fine art, Chipping Campden, camden gallery, contemporary, contemporary arts, contemporary art, artists, painting, sculpture, abstract painting, gloucestershire,  cotswolds, painting for sale, artwork for sale, modern art gallery, art exhibitions,arts gallery, gallery art, art gallery UK Emily Mayer: The Dogs Bollocks Campden Gallery, fine art, Chipping Campden, camden gallery, contemporary, contemporary arts, contemporary art, artists, painting, sculpture, abstract painting, gloucestershire,  cotswolds, painting for sale, artwork for sale, modern art gallery, art exhibitions,arts gallery, gallery art, art gallery UK Emily Mayer: The Dogs Bollocks (detail) Campden Gallery, fine art, Chipping Campden, camden gallery, contemporary, contemporary arts, contemporary art, artists, painting, sculpture, abstract painting, gloucestershire,  cotswolds, painting for sale, artwork for sale, modern art gallery, art exhibitions,arts gallery, gallery art, art gallery UK
Otus stickii (detail)
Wood, copper, steel
78 x 20.7 x 20.7 cm
Final Voyage - Precious Cargo
Epoxy resin, hair, suitcase
46.2 x 46.2 x 46.2 cm
The Dogs Bollocks
Glass, ceramic, plastic, epoxy resign, hair, specimens in spirit
36.5 x 55.7 x 22.1 cm
The Dogs Bollocks (detail)
Glass, ceramic, plastic, epoxy resign, hair, specimens in spirit
36.5 x 55.7 x 22.1 cm
Emily Mayer: Jesus Bird Campden Gallery, fine art, Chipping Campden, camden gallery, contemporary, contemporary arts, contemporary art, artists, painting, sculpture, abstract painting, gloucestershire,  cotswolds, painting for sale, artwork for sale, modern art gallery, art exhibitions,arts gallery, gallery art, art gallery UK Emily Mayer: Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know Campden Gallery, fine art, Chipping Campden, camden gallery, contemporary, contemporary arts, contemporary art, artists, painting, sculpture, abstract painting, gloucestershire,  cotswolds, painting for sale, artwork for sale, modern art gallery, art exhibitions,arts gallery, gallery art, art gallery UK Emily Mayer: Last Resting Place (Their Death in My Hands) Campden Gallery, fine art, Chipping Campden, camden gallery, contemporary, contemporary arts, contemporary art, artists, painting, sculpture, abstract painting, gloucestershire,  cotswolds, painting for sale, artwork for sale, modern art gallery, art exhibitions,arts gallery, gallery art, art gallery UK Emily Mayer: Last Resting Place (Their Death in My Hands) - (detail) Campden Gallery, fine art, Chipping Campden, camden gallery, contemporary, contemporary arts, contemporary art, artists, painting, sculpture, abstract painting, gloucestershire,  cotswolds, painting for sale, artwork for sale, modern art gallery, art exhibitions,arts gallery, gallery art, art gallery UK
Jesus Bird
Steel with paint, aluminium
51 x 51 x 50 cm
Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know
Steel, brass, plastic, aluminium, leather, lead, rubber
35.5 x 31 x 16 cm
Last Resting Place (Their Death in My Hands)
Wood, resin, paper, metal, hair, whiskers, ceramic mug with tools & brushes
33.2 x 83.7 x 60.2 cm
Last Resting Place (Their Death in My Hands) - (detail)
Wood, resin, paper, metal, hair, whiskers, ceramic mug with tools & brushes
33.2 x 83.7 x 60.2 cm
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Emily Mayer: Fred's Owl Campden Gallery, fine art, Chipping Campden, camden gallery, contemporary, contemporary arts, contemporary art, artists, painting, sculpture, abstract painting, gloucestershire,  cotswolds, painting for sale, artwork for sale, modern art gallery, art exhibitions,arts gallery, gallery art, art gallery UK Emily Mayer: Gusto Campden Gallery, fine art, Chipping Campden, camden gallery, contemporary, contemporary arts, contemporary art, artists, painting, sculpture, abstract painting, gloucestershire,  cotswolds, painting for sale, artwork for sale, modern art gallery, art exhibitions,arts gallery, gallery art, art gallery UK Emily Mayer: Gusto (detail) Campden Gallery, fine art, Chipping Campden, camden gallery, contemporary, contemporary arts, contemporary art, artists, painting, sculpture, abstract painting, gloucestershire,  cotswolds, painting for sale, artwork for sale, modern art gallery, art exhibitions,arts gallery, gallery art, art gallery UK Emily Mayer: Portland Billy Campden Gallery, fine art, Chipping Campden, camden gallery, contemporary, contemporary arts, contemporary art, artists, painting, sculpture, abstract painting, gloucestershire,  cotswolds, painting for sale, artwork for sale, modern art gallery, art exhibitions,arts gallery, gallery art, art gallery UK
Fred's Owl
bronze (ed. of 9)
166 x 32 x 32 cm
Gusto
Wood, steel, brass, copper
49 x 71 x 38 cm
Gusto (detail)
Wood, steel, brass, copper
49 x 71 x 38 cm
Portland Billy
Wood, steel, paint, wire
61 x 71 x 7.5 cm
Lesser spotted sumduck Campden Gallery, fine art, Chipping Campden, camden gallery, contemporary, contemporary arts, contemporary art, artists, painting, sculpture, abstract painting, gloucestershire,  cotswolds, painting for sale, artwork for sale, modern art gallery, art exhibitions,arts gallery, gallery art, art gallery UK Fish Watch Campden Gallery, fine art, Chipping Campden, camden gallery, contemporary, contemporary arts, contemporary art, artists, painting, sculpture, abstract painting, gloucestershire,  cotswolds, painting for sale, artwork for sale, modern art gallery, art exhibitions,arts gallery, gallery art, art gallery UK
Lesser spotted sumduck
Steel, wood, plastic
30 x 33 x 20 cm
Fish Watch
Steel, wood, plastic
50 x 50 x 41 cm

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