SIGMA SIGMA SIGMA with Emma Cousin is the fourth installment of Common Ground 2018–19.

Common Ground is Milton Keynes Arts Centre’s community participation and artist development programme supported using public funding by Arts Council England. Offering a twelve-month season of distinct projects, each presenting high quality and meaningful opportunities for engagement between a diverse spectrum of artists and communities living in Milton Keynes.

See below for more details

Residency and workshops
1 February – 27 April 2019

6 April – 27 April 2019

Sigma Sigma Sigma, or Tri Sigma, meaning ‘the sum of’; is a new body of work by artist Emma Cousin, bringing together paintings, drawings and writings fuelled by Milton Keynes and our local communities.

Throughout Cousin’s new compositions, bodies are used to illustrate an idea or play on words responding to a theme of support systems. These diagrammatic groups demonstrate function, posture and relationships, each geared towards the question ‘how can the body be a site of power?’

Using Milton Keynes and its communities as a stimulus to expand on metaphors of landscape, environment and architecture, Cousin shifts the bodies into new, often awkward arrangements to present ideas of contact and isolation to consider how we can support ourselves, each other and our communities.

In collaborations including choreography, music, ceramics and performance, Cousin has explored the theme of ‘support systems’, to consider how we support one another and are supported physically, emotionally and practically. Artists, students and our publics were invited to respond to and expand on her themes and work, creating an embodied support system. This exchange of ideas, methods and skills is perhaps the crux of Sigma Sigma Sigma

Tri Sigma, is a fitting title for how the paintings work, figures adding to one another to deliver a sum, and for this residency, forged with the help of Milton Keynes residents. Accompanying the exhibition is a catalogue of interviews, essays, poems, drawings, photos and other contributions authored by Cousin with guest artists, students, families and local communities.

Common Ground is supported by public funding from Arts Council England


Resident-led Artist Tour with Emma Cousin
Thursday 14 February, 11am–4pm
Free, everyone welcome

Milton Keynes’ Residents Stories with Emma Cousin
Friday 15 February, 11am–4pm
Free, everyone welcome

Art Agony Aunt with Emma Cousin
Saturday 9 March, 11am–4pm
Free, suitable for ages 15+

Drawing on Ourselves with Emma Cousin
Wednesday 20 March, 11am–4pm
Free, suitable for ages 15+

April Fool Unperforming with Louise Ashcroft
Monday 1 April, 7.30pm–9pm
Free, everyone welcome

Dance, Movement and Choreography workshop
Collaborative workshop with MK College students and artists Emma Cousin and Hannah Cameron
Wednesday 17 April 2019

Drawing and .gif making: Caricature workshop
Thursday 18 April, 11am–4pm
Free, suitable for ages 15+

Exhibition closing party and Zine launch with Emma Cousin and guests
Saturday 27 April, 12–3pm
Free, everyone welcome


Consequences Workshop with Emma Cousin and Alessia Franchi
Wednesday 20 February, 10am–12pm, 1pm–3pm
Free, suitable for all ages

Food for Thought with Emma Cousin
Saturday 2 March, 11am–3pm
Free, suitable for all ages

Consequences Workshop with Fritha Jenkins
Thursday 14 March, 4.30–6pm
Free, suitable for all ages

Don’t Worry, Doll Workshop
Saturday 20 April, 10am–12pm and 1–3pm

Free, suitable for all ages


Drawing Workshop: Perspectives
Collaborative workshop with MK College student and Emma Cousin
Thursday 21 February 2019

Still Life Drawing
Collaborative workshop with MK College students and Emma Cousin
Thursday 7 March 2019

Drawing Workshop: Communication and context
Collaborative workshop with MK College students and Emma Cousin
Thursday 14 March 2019

Drawing Workshop: Interference
Collaborative workshop with MK College students and Emma Cousin
Thursday 21 March 2019

Exquisite Corpse: Building Bodies
Collaborative workshop with MK College students and artists Emma Cousin and Maddie Banwell
Monday 25 March 2019

Go with Your Gut: Going Inside the Body
Collaborative workshop with MK College students and artists Emma Cousin and Fritha Jenkins
Tuesday 26 March 2019

Fragile Systems with artists Emma Cousin and Tim Spooner
Collaborative workshop with MK College students and artists Emma Cousin and Fritha Jenkins
Tuesday 26 March 2019

Yes And ... An Improvised Musical Workshop
Collaborative workshop with MK College students and artists Emma Cousin and Chris Earley
Thursday 28 March 2019


Large paintings use the body to build a puzzle of figures supporting each other and holding each other up, the moment just before the overstretched figures topple over or pull one another apart. Phrases such as ‘holding myself together’ or ‘hanging out’ are often starting points to the work that takes dominant female stereotypes as a core narrative.

The work employs humour as a means of opening up and engaging with the complexities of women’s psychological and physical experience. Across the canvases the body becomes the lynchpin to explore subjects such as hysteria, suspension, weight, mobility, agility, embarrassment and acceptance. Work often focuses on the aging process through visual representations of stretching skin, or sagging bodies which is represented in the physical weight of the paint on the canvas, exploring the expectations that we have of ourselves and our bodies and how we handle and navigate our limits and our drives. The work gestures towards an alternative view of women’s experience of their bodies and the interrelatedness of physical mobility with social mobility. This suggests a curiousness about the acts of holding that are performed through our bodies, emotions, audience, memories, values, fears, ourselves.

Emma Cousin (b. 1986) looks at what we can and can’t control in everyday life. Using the body to explore human aspirations and expectations, she considers “the breaking point”, navigating the body’s limits by presenting structures of figures holding one another up or pulling each other apart. Her paintings question how supportive we are of one another as women, as bodies and as individuals. Her work has recently been shown at Jerwood Visual Arts Space in London, CGK Gallery in Copenhagen, and Dolph Projects, Tintype Gallery, and Edel Assanti Gallery in London. Graduating from Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, University of Oxford in 2007, and just completed the Skowhegan Residency 2018, Emma Cousin is based in London.

Further reading
︎ Emma Cousin

Thanks to Susan Cousin, Fritha Jenkins, Tim Spooner, Hannah Cameron, Chris Earley, Alessia Franchi, Maddie Banwell, Louise Ashcroft and Unperfoming, Amy Mechowski, Alan Senior, Margaret Macer, Mike and all who have contributed to Cousin's research of and about Milton Keynes.


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