At the officially opening at lunchtime the Duke of Devonshire told guests that he was such a great admirer of her work that the exhibition had been added to the programme of arts events announced at the beginning of the season.
“It’s akin to a pop-up if not exactly one,” he quipped. “It took a long time to organise and then it all happened very quickly as so often is the case.”
Through McGuire’s characteristic use of photographic and mono-lithographic printing techniques the exhibition, titled ‘XXXX’ aims to challenge established ideas around male identity, violence and beauty. McGuire’s work explores the inherent tension between society’s perceptions of cage-fighters and the reality of their personal narratives.
The ‘XXXX’ exhibition features large-scale, abstracted images of cage fighters in combat captured in Atlantic City, New Jersey during 2011 and hand-processed throughout 2012 and they are startlingly beautiful.
McGuire, who grew up in Nottingham but is half-American, divides her time between London and New York, which is where her interest in the subject was initially sparked by regular visits to the famous Renzo Gracie Fight Club. There she met the Gracie family, known for their founding of Brazilian jiu-jitsu as well as their success in combat sport competitions.
“There is a long standing tradition of gladiatorial games, predating antiquity, which is now being popularised in contemporary TV series like ‘Spartacus’.
“How comfortable we feel about our spectatorship, which is essentially voyeuristic, of this often violent sport is an overlooked factor in the continuation of the tradition,” says McGuire.
“Although my initial focus was capturing the fighters during the photographic stage, interestingly it was during the printing process that the spectators emerged as a parallel subject matter – and our voyeuristic nature as human beings became amplified.”
The resultant pictures were further developed using McGuire’s unique mono-lithographic technique, which progressively degrades the original plate producing a slightly different image each time.
These abstracted, long exposure images have been developed into a variety of sizes, with some of the artworks over a metre high, and are being displayed in the North Sketch Gallery at Chatsworth.
McGuire first met the Duke of Devonshire while studying at the Royal College of Art and over the years he became an admirer and collector of her work.
“I acquired several artworks from Emma McGuire’s ‘Warrior’ exhibition in 2012 and it was there that we began to talk about a new show for Chatsworth.
“I’m delighted that we’ve been able to make it happen with XXXX and that more people will get to see her provocative but beautiful work.”
XXXX includes predominantly new pictures as well as some images seen as part of the ‘Warrior’ joint exhibition with the artiste Echo Morgan at Blackhall Studios, London during October 2012.
Entry to the solo exhibition is free with the purchase of a House and Garden ticket. Even if you have already visited Chatsworth it is well worth going again to see this exhibition which is on until November 8.
For more information about McGuire’s work go to http://www.emma-mcguire.com/