A look into Emilie Atkinson’s work

Chloe Evans || August 14th

Misaligned is made up of nine artists, exploring ‘constructions and compositions, processes and procedures, rules and rituals’. Featuring the work of Chloe Ashley, Emilie Atkinson, Kat Boon, Kyle Cartlidge, Kornelia Herms, Joyce Iwaszko, Jenna Naylor, Peter R Smith and Sarah Thorley; the gallery is truly booming with colour and abstract ideas.

I was lucky enough to catch up with one of the artists, Emilie Atkinson who has created an extraordinary installation that involves living snails; it’s said that the key to looking young is in snails slime. I honestly couldn’t think of anything worse than putting a snail on my face, probably because in our culture snails are seen as a disgusting nuisance that end up crushed on the pavements and paths every time there’s the slightest bit of rain, but in others they’re seen as intelligent animals. It’s said that Greeks would watch for when snails started to climb the vines, as that was when harvest should begin, Aztec’s believed snails were the ‘moon god’ and their shells protection, its also well known that escargot is a common starter in France, Spain and Portugal and the Romans even considered it to be an elite food. This kind of cultural difference is something that Atkinson and I spoke about and I feel speaks through her work; I found it interesting that ceramic hexagons were use on the steps up to the snails hand-crafted home as I felt that it was incorporating the cultural norm in Stoke-On-Trent and our history within the pottery industry and led you up to a cultural norm outside of the UK where snails are more accepted.

The more we spoke it became evident that Atkinson had actually grown quite attached to the little snails, she told me how she was worried about bringing them down to the exhibition as she feared it might scare and unsettle them and how she had been reading how to monitor their behaviour to be able to determine their welfare and happiness; and with this I started to feel quite attached to them myself. At this point we were both on our hands and knees, just watching them in the water. There was a moment when one fell off a plant and landed on its shell, I giggled at how silly they were only to turn to Atkinson and see horror in her face and it was then that I realised just how much she cared about the work she had made.

This kind of engagement is what makes art so enjoyable, the way an artist responds to an idea is so personal and the way the viewers respond is even more so. Atkinson’s work reflects the idea of misconceptions, exposing the myths that are associated with everyday objects. In 2014 there was a boom of ‘snail slime’ beauty products that claimed they were the key to keeping your skin looking young, though when looked into it is believed that they farm the slime only to turn it into a powder that is added to a cosmetic cocktail; whatever the answer to this myth is, something I am sure of is that Atkinson’s work has really got me thinking and has responded brilliantly to the ideas that she has been exploring.

The colour scheme that Atkinson has used is also very interesting; the hexagons resemble a more organic matter like the plants in the actual sanctuary yet the grouting around the tiles is a very feminine and delicate light pink with small ceramic designs half painted in a complimentary mint green; all in all the composition is very pleasing and the installation itself a gem within the exhibition.

To see Atkinson’s work, visit The Airspace Gallery, Hanley between August the 12th and 27th along with the rest of the work on display.