Showing @ Smyth Galleries

Embellish by Emma Bass from 9 - 30 November

Her new collection, Embellish, will open at Smyth Galleries in St Marys Bay on 9 November. The photographs, says Bass, are: “richer, darker and more atmospheric” than Imperfect, which featured bruised or decaying blooms set in decorative white vases against pale backgrounds.

While exploring London’s National Gallery, Bass became fascinated by the still life floral works of the Dutch Masters. In Embellish, she continues her investigation into the nature of beauty in a photographic play of shadow and light that reflects the dramatic style of those celebrated 17th Century masterworks.

“This new body of work is about illusion,” explains Bass. “It asks questions including whether the act of embellishment amplifies beauty, or makes something less palatable, or can it create another way of seeing the world entirely?”

The sumptuous colourful arrangements are displayed in Bass’s growing collection of ever-more-ornate vases, positioned on an opulent marble ledge. These magnificent compositions fuse the work of the Dutch Masters with an ikebana aesthetic to create
a contemporary narrative.

As with her previous bodies of work, all is not as it seems. Look closely and you’ll notice that some of the flowers are real, others artificial. In some images, Bass is working consciously with the juxtaposition between real and that which can be called ‘fake’. She asks: “Does something have to be authentic to be beautiful? When it comes to embellishment, where does authenticity stop and illusion begin?”

Bass has also included ‘fictitious additions’ in the arrangements, many of which are practically invisible until you get up close and personal with the work. Some embellishments are inanimate objects such as wedding rings, plastic bugs or miniature soldiers from her son’s toy box. Others are living creatures. A praying mantis that happened along at shoot time became a natural part of one composition, the artist’s pet cockatiel did a number of star turns and Bass also nurtured Monarch butterflies from caterpillar to pupa to new-born adult to speak to the entire lifecycle portrayed in some of the works.

SMYTH GALLERIES, 41 Jervois Road, T: 09 360 6044,