Jemima Brown

Text for ‘The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face’, 2005, Ken Pratt

Identity and an almost obsessive preoccupation with self-identity has long been a feature of Jemima & Dolly Brown’s work. In fact, it’s central to the body of avatar practice already explored. But in the most recent works, there is a distinct emphasis on ‘the family’ and its place in individual identities. Groupings of sculptures, drawings, wallpaper and video works have some notion of ‘a family’ running through them. And of course in Jemima and Dolly’s hands, this is never a straightforward enterprise. As individuals the subject of these portraits is self and uncertainty. The sculptural figures now less frequently blend with bits of animals but rather with other humans – each doll is constructed from multiple casting subjects – father/daughter, mother/daughter, girl/boy, boy/girl. Anthropomorphic features resurface here and there: in the drawings, a cat’s anatomy finding its way into the human face.

But, what is perhaps more notable are the relationships between the individual figures or fragments of figures. Repeated obsessively the same faces appear over and again in different states of consciousness, a different character in each state. Sculptures cluster in relation to each other and a group of people – a family – form the basis for a wallpaper design.

There is a sense of new direction in these pieces that separates them from the earlier body of work. And yet there is something very familiar. Whether intended or not, there is at times a strong sensibility of Hockney. It’s there in the colours and lines of the drawings and in the randomly captured domestic scenes of the video work. Dolly lives out her life, collapsed into a few minutes through stop-frame, within her domestic/ family setting. At times, Dolly’s life on video bears an uncanny sense of Celia Birtwell and Cecil captured in the long English tradition of ‘domestic’ painting. In that tradition, as in these works, there is a decided ambivalence, an unreadable ether that tells us that family life is far from what it may appear on the surface; a far bigger psychological world played out in intimate domestic interiors.

Ken Pratt, February 2005