VITRINE presents the first London solo exhibition of Leeds-based British-Iraqi artist Emii Alrai. The new installation of sculptures echos ancient tombs and their spiritual presence.
The exhibition runs from 10 July to 20 September 2019 at VITRINE, London and is open 24 hours, 7 days a week.
Alrai is a first generation British-Iraqi artist whose practice is informed by inherited nostalgia, historical identity and post-colonial museum practices. Through sculpture and installation, Alrai weaves a narrative from oral histories and the ancient mythologies of the Middle East by forging artefacts and visualising residues of cultural collisions.
Alrai’s sensibility towards shared histories enables her to carefully construct meaning around the work she produces using common materials such as cardboard, clay, plaster, sand and metal. Her processes of patination and oxidisation make her work look worn and aged, replicating wall textures seen in the Middle East.
For ‘Tutelaries’, Alrai draws from the concept of a tutelary as a protector or guardian, which expresses the concept of safety usually associated with a sacred location. The connecting settings of an ancient space, a contemporary art gallery and public square further Alrai’s research into the displacement of stolen artefacts and their display in western museums.
The art objects displayed become tutelary relics, yet, in their reconfiguring, they are replicas or false tutelary objects appropriated for western display. The notion of a protector is pertinent to historic relics, which today remain housed in museums or collections removed from their original placement and out of danger, and Alrai assigns her contemporary objects to such protection, creating fictional artefacts and cultural residue.
The installation transforms VITRINE’s unique space by lining the walls with painted cardboard to echo that of a tomb, housing the series of wall and floor-based sculptures. Mostly made from clay, which is burnished with tar paint as well as copper leaf or powder, the floor-based works are displayed on armatures, furthering the show’s engagement with the physical structure of western museums and their display methods. By re-staging, the inherent identity of objects, both personal or geographic, Alrai explores the histories and heritage of their attached narratives.
‘Tutelaries’, curated by William Noel Clarke, continues VITRINE’s engagement with emerging artists and curators from across the UK.
Emii Alrai (b. 1993, Blackpool, UK) lives and works in Leeds, UK. She studied her BA in Fine Art and MA in Art Gallery and Museum Studies at The University of Leeds. Alrai is currently a Yorkshire Sculpture International Engagement Artist and had been awarded a place on The Tetley Artist Associate Programme 2018. Recent group and solo exhibitions include: Two Queens, Leicester, UK (2019); GLOAM, Sheffield, UK (2018); Ladybeck, Leeds, UK (2017); Caustic Casual, Salford, UK (2017); Hutt Collective, Nottingham, UK (2017).