• Emily Hartley-Skudder

The following text is extracted from writing by Sarah McClintock, curator at The Suter Art Gallery, where Hartley-Skudder’s Fancy Goods was part of the group exhibition Sympathetic Response held in October 2019 – February 2020.

“During her 2018 residency in Xiamen China, Hartley-Skudder took a cue from Heather Straka’s The Asian (2010) and approached a Chinese oil painting company to commission their ‘painter-workers’ to paint images from eight photographs she constructed of discarded objects. Leaving much of the execution in the hands of these painters, Hartley-Skudder is calling out the industry that underpins the art world….

(In her exhibition Fancy Goods) ...she presents oil painting multiples, each coming from one ‘original’ photograph." (Just one canvas in each set of eight is painted by Hartley-Skudder herself.) "The paintings do not exist without their preceding source-photographs. This begs the question – why is it that we often view paintings as more desirably ‘authentic’ than photographs? What is the obsession with ‘genuine’, hand-painted artworks?

…Intention is key to how we understand and value artworks. Should we value these paintings any less because they weren’t made with the artist’s own hand? When did the artwork exist; was it the ready-made sculpture she made in the studio, the photograph she took and edited, or in the paintings or exhibiting of the group? What we are made to realise through Fancy Goods is that these are unanswerable questions and perhaps even too simplistic and born from a false understanding of how art making happens…

...There are also huge demands on artist to produce – keep making more, sell, show, never stop. Painting sales make up the majority of the art market, with other mediums left in their wake. In using other people’s hands, Hartley-Skudder is not only releasing herself from the prison of making, but critiquing the expectations put on artists to produce work to meet audience, and market, demands. The artist muses – is becoming a painter-worker in one of these factories the only way to live as a full-time artist?

The market underlines the entire body of work. Hartley-Skudder’s goods may be fancy, but they are still goods. Art exists as a commodity and capitalism ensures that there is no part of contemporary life that can’t be monetised…”

Sarah McClintock
The Suter Art Gallery Curator

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