Gemma Anderson

1 may - 6 june 2015


In her first solo exhibition at Whitecross Gallery, printmaker Gemma Anderson shows a diverse range of new work. In addition to her spectacular portraits for which she has become recognised, the exhibition will feature a series of new etchings completed during Gemma’s residency at the Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris.

The work in question is archival since it not only draws on informal archives but produces them as well, and does so in a way that underscores the nature of all archival materials as found yet constructed, factual yet fictive, public yet private. 
(Hal Foster, An Archival Impulse)

At first sight her work may look like conventional portraits, but look again and you see they also give you the artists idiosyncratic eye view of the sitters inner world. Her fantastical visions of land and seascapes depict a world of fantasy and dream-like creatures.

In recognising the affinity of her practise with that of a collector, Anderson seeks out her imagery from both her personal surroundings and formal archives with an immediate need to record.  She investigates public collections of Natural History that are important as foundations of our factual knowledge and incorporates them into her private biography. With no exception, she spent her recent residencies in Canada, Japan and France looking for archived objects, drawing them from direct observation and re-archiving the imagery to create a personal travelogue.

While staying faithful to her objects during her direct observations, her organising of them intimates a sense of the absurd, that which ultimately threatens the logic of the archival system of gathering and storing.  She shows arts potential to open up a world beyond a manifest order of knowledge, not only a mnemonic device but also as a tool to record mnemonic exercises that constitute a personal archive.

Anderson approaches her role as an artist with much in common with Foucault’s ’archaeologist of knowledge’ who aims to recover and reconstruct the archive. For Foucault the archive discerns an underlying structure that governs the thought systems and values of any given society. Through her process of etching the Natural History into its own people and landscapes, Anderson aims to reveal the nature of all archival material, in contemporary art and beyond; “found but constructed, factual yet fictive” and yet intrinsic to our collective memory.

Gemma Anderson was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1981. During and since the completion of her Printmaking MA at the Royal College of Art, she has been included in numerous group exhibitions including Isolation Show, Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast (2009), Hot Off the Press, Curwen & New Academy Gallery, London (2008), An Experiment in Collaboration, Jerwood Space, London (2008), Catlin Art Prize, London (2008), and Drawing Ezo, Nepenthes Gallery, Japan, Sapporo (2008, solo show).  She has won several awards and residencies such as the ICC residency, Sapporo, Japan 2008, RHA Thomas Dammann Award 2009, Arts Council Purchase Award 2009, Wellcome Trust Arts Award 2009, Man Group Drawing Prize Winner, Royal College of Art 2007. Public collections: Braid Museum and Art Centre, Ballymena, N.Ireland, Falmouth College of Art, Cornwall, Royal College of Art, London.