Patterns of duality are evident in Emily Chatton’s work: frailty and strength, darkness and light, nostalgia and contemporary concerns. The misty surfaces of her paintings often resemble faded maps that seem to evaporate into our immediate environment, drawing the viewer into a vaporous world of muted colors, gossamer grays and eddying blacks.
Chatton’s use of India ink recalls a sense of history, used in ancient China and India, the ink was used on scrolls to scribe histories, myths and music. In her new body of work presented here for the first time, she transforms found player piano rolls from the 1920s using Mylar and light. For their original purpose of playing automated piano music, the rolls of Player piano or Pianola moved via a mechanism inside an upright piano which triggered the holes in the paper to play notes. Instead of the original device, Chatton uses light to animate the scrolls. The punctures allow light to enter through the scroll and diffuse onto the Mylar with diaphanous affect. With titles such as “Lonesome and Sorry,” the lyrics are melancholic but the melodies cheerful, another dichotomy to be found in Chatton’s body of work.
In the Mylar and India ink paintings, Chatton presents “landscapes” and fictional realities that blur the distinction between abstraction and the representational. These works appear delicate but the material Mylar is durable, resistant to heat and environmental pollutants. The ink’s initial reaction to the surface is also a volatile burst, creating scenes that are visually ambiguous. From a seascape inhabited by a lonely boat, to organic and susurrus forms that spontaneously develop when the ink comes into contact with the Mylar, a union of materials reminiscent of human relationships. Similar to how a gesture, a touch or a word exchanged by two beings can have an unpredictable result, Chatton’s use of materials echoes this dynamic with ephemeral results.
Emily Chatton (b. 1974, London, England) studied at the Art Students League of New York and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts before moving to Brooklyn in 2008 where she currently lives and works. Chatton’s exhibitions and awards include Reverberations, James Oliver Gallery, Philadelphia (2012); Emily Chatton, Governor’s Island Art Fair, NYC (2011); Emily Chatton, Salon Ciel, New York (2010); Emily Chatton, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia (2006); The Philadelphia Mayor’s Award (2006); The Faculty Award (2006); Cecilia Beaux Memorial Award (2004) and The Henry J Travel scholarship (2004).