Em Ingram-Shute, ‘Traces of Absence’ installation view, 2021
Em Ingram-Shute is a process-driven sculptor who investigates psychic and political themes through intuitive material combinations. A Surrealist at heart, she is interested in the way that materials hold memory and come together subconsciously. Her works are playful assemblages of felt, steel, rubber and concrete that elevate the mundane.
Through both found and fabricated objects, Ingram-Shute taps into the tensions between presence and absence. In her work, presence is the molecular nature of the object in the here and now, whereas absence is the intergenerational memories held within. The latter encompasses the psychosomatic and the social, impressed upon the body at a cellular level. This comes through in her installation ‘Equality at a Stretch’, which uses the labour-intensive and highly tactile process of felting (and de-felting) brooms to create springy, soft testaments to women’s labour. Each of these drooping bodies takes five hours of work, and each ends up with its own individual, anthropomorphic character.
Ingram-Shute’s works often enlist humour to address internal struggles and social inequality, constructing objects with spatial authority that put on display her own vulnerabilities. Her centrepiece installation ‘Irony in Flow’ captures a moment in time as a roll of concrete canvas slips off bright yellow metal supports that appear comically woozy under the weight. This work also points to her experimentation with new materials, requiring hours of wrestling with wet concrete canvas to ensure that its final folds hold effortless potential. Her zippered felt and steel works titled ‘Tenors of Individuation’ convey a similar meddling with materials, where a tall tube of felt lollops along a sloping steel structure in an off-hand lean. Both tender and forceful, these works tread the line between the artist’s hand and happenstance, inviting the viewer to navigate their own internal associations.
The way that steel and felt rub shoulders in these sculptures is echoed in the colours and forms of her photographic series ‘Elevated Act’, which records the irregular textures of the ground on Cockatoo Island, Sydney. These photographs lean into abstraction, but also represent the many lives of the site, revealing an imprint of the objects that have made their marks over time. Together, Ingram-Shute’s sculptures and photographs reveal an attentive eye for beautiful idiosyncrasies and an inclination to focus in on the often overlooked.
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