Review: Emma Gregory – Semi-Permanent Collections at VG&M

Emma Gregory – Semi-Permanent Collections
at Victoria Gallery & Museum – Friday 16 October 2015 – Saturday 9 July (Extended) 2016

Words by Patrick Kirk-Smith. Photographs by Patrick Kirk-Smith and artinliverpool.

An exhibition as widely appealing as this is a rare and refreshing sight. It ties in museology, fine art, print production, ceramics, millinery, design, local history, archival work, personal histories and genealogy in a small, very revealing show. Gregory makes the point in her explanation of the work that Facebook, blogs, YouTube videos and her own website is available for more information in what is a very modern exhibition, clearly understanding the value of continuation.

Continuation which is massively successful here, leading me to spend a lot of time trawling the internet for more information. The exhibition pins to one main theme, family history, something that grew from a project drawing Liverpool University’s heritage collections. After Gregory learned her father was ill the project shifted; it became a chance to take stock of her own heritage, preserving it for herself and for history’s sake.

There are some fantastic examples of preservation in the exhibition, as well as print responses created in her Bluecoat studio reflecting what most of us refer to as imprinting memory. Initially I wanted to review this exhibition as a cabinet of curiosities, but had to change that when I realised how intertwined and tangled up in each other the works were. Each and every piece created or collected reflects elements of another object in the cabinet, or a story inspired by, or revolving around the object. It is a project of dedication and of love, and only in the final stages has skill had any part to play, producing beautiful objects in their own right, regardless of the story.

In a sense, the show can be simmered down to two main factors of print and archive, and in this case print is the act of creating an archive. Archive being a preservation, specifically a preservation of memory; and memory being fragile. These artefacts Gregory has created are, therefore, concrete, lasting, and documented in physical form, new memories, writing online and offline in what is one of the most thorough archives I have ever seen.

Work consists of everything from taxidermy to millinery, with notes of humour and notes of reflection, but somehow never feels cluttered. The cabinets are brimming with fascinating stories and the walls keep the show contemporary with Gregory’s confident photopolymer etchings, clearly demonstrating a mastery of print making despite theme or archive. As an autobiographical work to some extent, that element of value is freeingly forgotten, knowing that any work here is aimed at record keeping.

The exhibition spans generations of her family, past and future, and it is difficult to get away from how personal the show is for Gregory – but why would you want to? In the spirit of the exhibition, and of the project: if you would like more information about the project here are some incredibly useful links: