About

Self Portrait With Chair
A Little About My Work

The good versus bad paradigm seems an inescapable component of the human condition. Each opposing element appears to be battling for supremacy in our subconscious as well as in the public realm. Rather than ally ourselves with one or the other, the more seductive option is to invite both forces to the party and watch the ensuing chaos unfold. My artistic practice pits these two forces against each other by using the traditional craft of cross stitch to recreate scenes of hard core pornography.

By introducing explicit images of primarily internet sourced pornography to the domestic practice of cross stitch I create an intriguing and bemusing interaction of subject and medium that appear to be in  opposition; forcing good and bad, naughty and nice, housewife and whore to coexist. The resulting effect is a conflict between the beauty and intricacy of the woven colours, patterns and texture and vulgar imagery that is not the usual fare of such a craft. I aim to dampen the shock impact of the explicit content of the images by imbuing their curious vulgarity with a beauty that the image alone lacks. 

I began experimenting with this concept when I was confronted with a sexually explicit spam email – an entirely common, unsolicited phenomenon in this digital age. Not having been a connoisseur of pornography before this chance encounter, yet finding myself somewhat desensitised to its content thanks to the pervasive nature of sex in the media, I began to muse on the power of the sexually explicit human form. I sought to utilise this predominantly phallocentric imagery through a medium that had its roots in feminine tradition to juxtapose the confrontational world of sex and smut with the graceful qualities of laborious and beautiful craft work. Topics of a sexual nature are still socially taboo, despite being a necessary component of human existence, particularly thanks to increasing internet censorship of seemingly benign material. To view my work is an invitation to voyeurism as the viewer is confronted with the unsettling experience of publicly looking at imagery that on face value should be consumed privately and secretly. But upon the realisation that the works are in fact meticulously crafted using cross stitch, one is thus compelled to closely inspect the otherwise lewd imagery.

The most important component of these works lies in placing medium against subject. I invite the viewer to form their own relationship to the work through experiencing each piece in their own way. The works are often composed of hundreds of colours of thread and take many weeks or months to complete. The application of thread onto the cloth renders the image highly pixelated and are largely ambiguous at close proximity. The effect can be likened to a voyeuristic peep through a neighbour's blurred window. There are several approaches to viewing the work; to decipher the content of the image or to focus on the colours and substance of the stitching; each being as important as the other.

I appropriate images that highlight the awkward and bizarre fare that consumers of pornography are regularly offered. Compared with the diverse shapes and sizes of erotic bodies depicted since the advent of photography, contemporary erotic bodies in popular culture are typically tanned, taut, manipulated, shining and hairless and as such are eerily alike. Collecting and referencing these images allows me to explore a more curious range of human landscapes; from the slimy and slithery to the pompous, hairy and acrobatic. The stranger the imagery the wider the divide between subject and medium.

© 2019 Leah Emery