Get Back In Your Shell Like

Emma Hart (1974 - )

Glazed ceramic and steel sculpture, wall-mounted


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  • About the work
    Country: UK
    City: London
    Place: Government Art Collection
    Get Back In Your Shell Like continues Emma Hart’s work with pattern, a major field of investigation within her practice. Seeking to explore the potential of pattern beyond the decorative, Hart makes use of its aesthetic of accumulation as a tool to reflect on our contemporary condition. 

    The surface of this wall-mounted ceramic satellite dish is glazed with a bold motif showing a repeated figure whispering in the ear of an identical figure next to it, which whispers in the ear of the next, and so forth. The repetition suggests it may in fact be the same character whispering in its own ear over and over, trapped in an endless feedback loop or infinite echo chamber. At the same time, the slippages between foreground and background within the design make it hard to distinguish what is important, a common side effect of today’s constant flow of information. 

    The satellite dish acts as a conduit relaying messages from the outside world into the private space of the home, represented here by the keyhole on the arm of the dish. Hart is interested in television as an intimate medium that we give space to within our homes. Through television, we are able to process public events in a private way. Describing its special status, Hart points out that ‘we cry in front of the television.’

    The work takes its title from the phrase, ‘get back in your cell’, and the cockney slang for ear, ‘shell like’. As such, it evokes a sense of being imprisoned by technology or stuck in your own head, an effect reinforced by the bars that run across the length of the work. These bars also recall the interference that occasionally would interrupt the broadcast on analogue televisions and VHS recordings.

    This was the first pattern Hart designed following on from Mamma Mia!, her 2017 solo exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery, and the first in a broader series of satellite dishes that was first exhibited at Frieze London in 2017. 

    Within her broader practice, Hart’s use of clay is often playful and corporeal, forming body parts that act as substitutes for human action. She positions her ceramics to build relationships between the works and the viewer, sometimes as sprawling claustrophobic installations. 

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  • Details
    Get Back In Your Shell Like
    Glazed ceramic and steel sculpture, wall-mounted
    height: 60 cm, width: 68 cm, depth: 56cm
    Purchased from The Sunday Painter, January 2018
    The Sunday Painter; purchased by the GAC, 2018
    GAC number