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Emily Hartley-Skudder in the Frances Hodgkins Studio January 2024 image

Emily Hartley-Skudder in the Frances Hodgkins Studio, January 2024. Photo: Justin Spiers.

Being given the rare honour to develop her dream public exhibition is not lost on artist Emily Hartley-Skudder as she wraps up her year as the 2023 Frances Hodgkins Fellow.

She will celebrate the completion of her fellowship with her exhibition, Splash Club, opening at Dunedin's Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hākena on March 9.

Splash Club works across installation, readymade sculpture, and painting to set the stage for an exhibition that both celebrates and critiques cleanliness and beauty rituals in camp luxury.

Unveiling her clamshell-themed stockpile, Hartley-Skudder offers up a playful femme antidote to relic-like Gentlemen’s Clubs.

Alongside her own work, the exhibition will showcase many other artworks borrowed from around Aotearoa in the intersecting genres of ‘La Toilette’ and ‘Birth of Venus’.

While she says it has been hectic working on multiple exhibitions alongside preparing for Splash Club, having the financial support to focus solely on her art for the past year has been immensely beneficial.

The annual 12-month fellowship provided by the University of Otago includes a studio, office space and a salary.

Emily Hartley-Skudder working in Frances Hodgkins Fellowship studio, 2023 image
Emily Hartley-Skudder working in Frances Hodgkins Fellowship studio, 2023. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“Even though it was challenging at times, the chance to receive a full-time salary as an artist for a year and work out of a large, practical and ground level studio was a real dream.

“The opportunity to develop my dream public exhibition, completely self-driven, with the team at the Hocken there to help make it happen is a real honour and something that is quite rare.

“Working in the realm of installation means I often need an institutional gallery’s support to realise many of my ideas, so this is a particularly significant opportunity for me to make some key ideas for artworks a reality.”

Hailing from Te-Whanganui-a-Tara, Hartley-Skudder started the year with the daunting task of relocating to Ōtepoti and starting anew.

The year has had its ups and downs, and she initially faced internal pressure to live up to the incredible artists who came before her, she says.

“It took me a bit of time to get over the ‘imposter syndrome’ of it all, and not be overwhelmed by the weight of the expectations I placed on myself to achieve something that lived up to the legacy.”

However, the intricate beauty, mischievous and thought-provoking collection encapsulated in Splash Club well and truly cements her position among her fellowship peers.

“I hope people will have fun and come out with smiles on their faces… maybe,” she says.

“It’s a rather maximalist exhibition with all sorts of colours and textures, and heaps of different artworks from historic to contemporary. It’ll be a lot.

“I think there’ll be layers to it, so hopefully viewers will get an initial surprise when they see the installations and then come in for a closer look, as there are heaps of details too. Some of the colour combinations and retro bathroom ware may also make you a bit nauseous.”

Assuming the roles of artist and curator, she positions new paintings from her time as the 2023 Frances Hodgkins Fellow alongside artworks from collections across Aotearoa.

When viewed en masse, these works by other artists communicate patterns of preoccupation within beauty standards and Western art history which privilege very particular ideals about cleanliness and hygiene in relation to gender, race, and class.

Hocken Collections Art Curator Hope Wilson says it’s been a privilege to see Splash Club come together over the past 12 months and working with Hartley-Skudder over the course of her Fellowship was a highlight of 2023.

“In Splash Club, Emily adopts a bold new direction by engaging directly with the human body through historical and contemporary artworks and her own paintings.

“Visitors to Splash Club can look forward to an exhibition which shows off Emily’s talent for collecting and composing—whether that’s with colours and textures, bathroom furniture, her own paintings or artworks by other artists. Splash Club is an exhibition which rewards exploration and provides many opportunities for the viewer to make connections across the gallery space.”

Splash Club runs until 18 May, 2024.

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