Ethereal Selves by Meanjin/Brisbane-based artist Emma Gardner is an installation of suspended self-portraits.
Gardner’s work is grounded in Western esoteric practices, such as Contemporary Occultism, which emphasise human connections to natural elements and rhythms. She looks to the stars for divination and incorporates ritualistic habits that promote healing into her creative process. In her self-portraits, Gardner uses analogue photography yet moves beyond surface-level and representational imagery. Her works capture moments of surrender and states of vulnerability.
This series materially highlights a process of transformation. The works begin as cyanotype photograms on textiles. Using novel chemical interventions and sun sensitive solutions, she records her figure in moments of pause, ritual and gentle movement. She then documents the works-in-progress with a digital lens, digitally manipulating them and printing them on Perspex. The finished works play with light’s spectral qualities to evoke the complexities of contemporary representation. They combine additive and subtractive mark-making to rest in a liminal space, where the artist’s body is both translucent and present, temporally-suspended and evocative of movement.
Ethereal Selves also illustrates Gardner’s larger interests in storytelling, watching, feeling and wandering without direction. Through these works, she hopes to evoke ancient heroines and imagine future protagonists, who challenge the rationality, consumption and commercialism of contemporary life by demonstrating other ways of being.