Preview Friday 29th July, 5-9pm
Workplace Foundation is pleased to present Reverse Defence by Yorkshire based artist Emii Alrai. The exhibition will be an immersive sculptural installation including drawings and ceramics that weaves together diasporic narratives referencing ancient mythology, heritage and post-colonial museum collecting and displays.
Reverse Defence plays with Alrai’s ongoing exploration into appropriation and object displays in the western museological system. Her work uses techniques of forgery and mimicry, creating ceramics and sculpture which use everyday materials to refer to artefacts and archaeological digs. Traditional willow weaving techniques have been reimagined in cardboard, whilst straw and plaster have been used to emulate traditional techniques of wattle and daub.
The works bring together multiple narratives to create an installation which positions the viewer as intruder, hunter or voyeur. Using medieval hunting arenas as a starting point, a maze like structure houses sculptures punctured by arrows. Interlacing multiple themes, Alrai references: the etymologies and histories of courting; the coveting of gigantic artefacts held by the British Museum; ancient gravesite constructions; and the melancholic romanticisation of wounds by the Pre-Raphaelites. Through doing so she dictates how the body is led through its journey and references how history has been constructed in a linear format.
Each time one of Alrai’s installations is displayed and reconfigured, elements of previous exhibitions begin to deteriorate, adding to the faux archaeological environment, whilst new elements are added. Through this process she creates works that reverse a museological convention of preservation, shedding previous narratives at the same time as imbuing them with memory and autonomy.
Emii Alrai received her MA in Art Gallery and Museum studies in 2018 and her BA Fine Art in 2016 from Leeds University. Recent solo exhibitions include: A Core of Scar, The Hepworth, Wakefield; The Courtship of Giants, Eastside Projects, Birmingham; Deposition Layer, Threshold Projects, Leeds; and Passing of the Lilies, Jerwood Solo Presentations, Jerwood Arts, London. She has participated in residencies including In Ruins Residency, Calabria, Italy; Triangle Astérides Residency, Marseille, France; and was the Yorkshire Sculpture International Engagement Artist in 2019. She lives and works in Leeds, UK