“It is amazing to me that a world so beautiful can also be so violent.”
The American artist Sarah Emerson paints imaginative landscapes in a colorful pop art, almost paint by numbers style, that camouflage a dark underside for presentation on gallery walls and as street murals.
As she told Creative Loafing’s Henry Samuels “I'm inspired by actual landscapes and how they are affected by time and human intervention… In the imagery I usually mix a little darkness with the beautiful because that is the nature of the life I am familiar with. But aside from the picture, I want the viewer to feel like they own my work both psychologically and physically. I use a lot of familiar archetypes as a visual alphabet and I see my paintings as odes to a continuous circle of paradise lost and found.”
After a nomadic childhood the 24-year-old Emerson graduated from the Atlanta Collage of Art and two years later left London’s Goldsmiths College with her Master of Fine Arts.
Her highly stylized landscapes that combine geometric patterns and mythic archetypes incorporate themes ranging from battlefields, war propaganda, literature, and idyllic gardens.
As she states in her artist’s statement for her current exhibition The Unbearable Flatness of Being “The paintings depict a make believe world dominated by terror management theory and symbolic totems that represent our collective desire to be optimistic and innocent in tumultuous times. Each painting is an amalgamation of events happening at once, flattened into one picture plane, with shifting layers of debris that distort and fracture the horizon. Like a cartoon cel there is repetition in the structure of the paintings and repeating symbols that can serve as common landmarks from section to section. In my paintings no event happens separately, it is perpetual wreckage piling up in one place.”
The Unbearable Flatness of Being is on show at Atlanta’s Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia until the 6th of February.