Napier exhibition ‘Love’, that opened on Sunday at Boyd-Dunlop Gallery, showcases a selection of recent works by Auckland photographic artist Emma Bass across five different bodies of work.
The series of works represents her development as a photographic artist – Embellish, Terra Firma, Interrupted Eden, A Little Garden and her Floral Portrait Series that have been exhibited in the past five or so years. This is her first solo show and her first show in Hawke’s Bay.
Boyd-Dunlop has given over the main downstairs gallery to her sumptuous floral photography. This is the first time Bass has shown the full range of of her work in one space and she says she can’t wait to see it all together.
The flowers pictured are fresh or dying, mixed in with fake, arranged in vases that are part of her own collection of 250 vases, with many intriguing elements added; cicada skins, the metamorphosis of Monarch butterflies, dead lizards and other assorted bugs and flying insects, or pieces of family jewellery. These are vivid images that capture the colour and beauty of nature with the all important ‘discovery’ element.
Emma explains, “I want to challenge our concept of beauty. For me, ‘Imperfect’ frames reality; the flaws themselves are beautiful. In ‘Embellish’, I draw on the style of the Dutch Masters – and question the value of illusion,” she says. “I am continually diversifying my vision and exploring new bodies of work, such as ‘Interrupted Eden’ that references the Old Masters and Matisse, and ‘A Little Garden’, featuring single twigs with a flower and a large mossy rock or lump of quartz.”
In a world obsessed with perfection, these portraits of flora ‘on the turn’ or augmented with paint and objects find beauty in decline and demise, and question the authenticity of enhancements.
A former nurse, Emma went to live in London in the early 1990s where she fell in love with photography at the Camera Club in Leicester Square. Here she learnt darkroom techniques and took part in her first group exhibition.
On her return to New Zealand, she became one of that country’s most adaptable commercial photographers, working freelance for over 20 years and winning awards. Emma’s diverse portfolio is testament to her compassionate, yet thorough, approach.
In 1992, Emma began exhibiting her art photography and has established a strong following. In 2016, she was the only New Zealand artist to be invited to appear at the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition in London, and she was shortlisted as a finalist again in 2019.
Emma is delighted to be in Napier right now, enjoying the Art Deco Festival with her mother, friends and family members who have joined her to celebrate this showing of her major works.
In a recent interview on RNZ Emma Bass talks about her backstory and the upcoming exhibition.
February 14 – March 9
4 Hastings Street, Napier