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Outer Space programme sees Canterbury arts graduate exhibit work in Showhome

Gallery

The Gallery's latest exhibition in the Outer Spaces programme, Showhome, has opened in Christchurch, featuring the disconcertingly 'perfect' works of recent University of Canterbury graduate Emily Hartley-Skudder.

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Auckland-born Hartley-Skudder's eerily precise tableaux of everyday household objects play on the idea of the 'artificial ordinary'. For three weeks, her paintings and miniature arrangements will provide the finishing touches to a furnished showhome at 49 Sioux Avenue in the Wigram Skies development, fulfilling their ultimate destiny as the aspirational props for a perfect life.

'My work deals with very everyday, domestic subject matter and the conventions of traditional still-life painting, which inescapably encourages their function as decoration in the home: the same subject matter they represent. In a way, I see a showhome as a fully realised, life-sized doll's house: the perfectly constructed everyday, which highlights the strangeness of the artificial ordinary,' says Hartley-Skudder.

The Showhome exhibition has steadily evolved over the last year. Hartley-Skudder researched a number of showhomes throughout Christchurch before setting her sights on an Orange Homes house in the new Wigram Skies development, which provided the perfect mix of décor to respond to and a great environment in which to showcase her work.

'My plan was to make site-specific paintings to "double" the interior of the house and in doing so, playfully draw attention to art's role as decoration, literally "making paintings to match the couch". My work involves a series of steps between different mediums that each remove the image further from its original source. Spurred on by an obsession with doll's houses as a child, my process begins with seeking out and collecting a range of miniatures, models and toys. These objects are arranged into carefully lit scenes that are photographed, and the photographs are then translated into oil paintings,' she says.

'This exhibition - especially as it is in Christchurch - is truly significant to me as I feel it is a culmination of my years at art school and my time spent in this city, where the concept of "showhome" has become all the more pertinent due to the Christchurch rebuild. It was such an amazing opportunity to work with Christchurch Art Gallery. It has been a fantastic experience and a huge step in my career.'

Setting her sights on Christchurch to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Ilam School of Fine Arts at the University of Canterbury in 2008, Hartley-Skudder stayed on to complete her postgraduate honours year in 2012, wanting to maintain the momentum of her work. Since 2009 she has participated in solo and group exhibitions throughout New Zealand, including at a number of Christchurch galleries and exhibition spaces, a project space in Auckland and {Suite} Gallery, Wellington.

'I have always really enjoyed making things, and at high school I soon learnt where my priorities lay when my attention became significantly occupied with my photography and painting subjects. This enthusiasm for both mediums has greatly influenced the development of my practice throughout art school. I am now predominantly a painter as this was my major, but photography remains an integral part of my work.'

Acting director Blair Jackson says the Showhome project provided Christchurch Art Gallery with an exciting opportunity.

'When Emily explained her idea of responding to the idealised environment of a showhome by 'decorating' it with her playfully subversive still-life paintings, we thought it was a very strong concept that would appeal to viewers. We have been delighted to be able to include it within our Outer Spaces programme and therefore bring it to the attention of a wider audience.'

All are welcome to view this free exhibition at the Orange Homes showhome, 49 Sioux Avenue, Wigram. The exhibition will run from Wednesday 27 February until Tuesday 19 March 2013.

Open 12-4pm Tuesday to Sunday, closed Mondays.

Showhome is part of Christchurch Art Gallery's Outer Spaces programme of art in the wider city.

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