Cousin’s fascination with nature’s human stilts has been the drive of her practice; from her Residency research project Legwork, to this new body of work Leg Up, she has used the leg as her vehicle of choice by which to explore the human need to evolve, connect and ultimately move forward.
As a woman born in 1986, Cousin says that she paints what she knows: these paintings tackle the issues of her present moment. Drawing on a darkly witty humour, Leg Up presents a new series of complex fragmented-figurative compositions in unexpectedly jarring colours.
Cousin’s ‘Leggy’ women are healthy athletic creatures who twist and strain within the canvases. There is something painfully funny about Cousin’s bodies. You can’t help but laugh at each individual’s ridiculous attempt to charge forward, stiletto heeled, puncturing the competition, but going nowhere. The decision to only paint women is a conscious one. There are no limbs out-stretched offering aid. The females are bonded only via orifices that fit fists into them or backs that accept heavy heads. Each is an individual, defined by their unique footwear, their attire or perversely, their skin, and entirely uninterested in the overall team. Their non-conformity to the ‘perfect’ body image signals either pragmatism or rebellion.
Throughout this body of work the artist repeatedly highlights the absurdity of continued handed-down female traditions in a contemporary society which no longer makes room for them. The sympathy that the artist evokes is intriguing; the viewer is invited both to mock, and simultaneously to shield these woman from abject humiliation, terror or embarrassment.
In Peeing at 80, a woman sits trapped in the back of a moving car relieving herself in a cup. Depicting something ultimately human yet so humiliating and outlandish is a characteristic of Cousin’s work. There is something about these paintings that is accepting, Celebratory in their upbeat palette but desperate in their disequilibrium.
ESSAY BY ISABEL BINGLEY, CURATOR AT FLOWERS GALLERY
PAST INTERVIEWS AND REVIEWS– Radio 4 https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0000n3y
– Irrelevant magazine https://irrelevantedition.com/2018/08/14/emma-cousins-mardy-at-the-edel-assanti-gallery-dissident-disturbances/
– Elephant magazine https://elephant.art/studio-visit-emma-cousin/
– Fad magazine http://fadmagazine.com/2017/03/02/marcelle-joseph-interviews-artist-emma-cousin-legs/
– Candid https://candidmagazine.com/heartache-longing-painting-sculpture-white-conduit-projects/
– Artlyst http://www.artlyst.com/features/dale-lewis-and-emma-cousin-the-painterly-post-digital-vernacular-paul-carey-kent/
AVAILABLE NOWFeature in Ambit Magazine Issue 229