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The concepts of the grotesque and hybridisation have always piqued human interest. From the mythical gryphon - with its leoninetorso mated to the wings and head of an eagle - to science fiction fantasies of android life, the fascination with otherworldly creations runs a darker thread through the annals of human life. Asexpected, these musings lend themselves to representation in cultural media and we can track a certain history of art - from Hieronymus Bosch through medieval bestiary to Patricia Piccinini -that comments on our fascination with the weird and ungodly. Viewed from this perspective, Emma McLellan's work is a contemporary interpretation of an age-old fascination.
McLellan attended Auckland University's Elam School of Fine Arts, graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts majoring inPrintmaking in 1993, before continuing on to compete a Masters of Fine Arts in Painting in 2001. The result of her affinity for thesedual disciplines is a natural combination of the two that allows her to build multiple layers of colour, pattern and image, all thewhile seeking to conceal and reveal different elements of the composition. McLellan combines her fascination with the grotesque,the weird and the hybrid (drawn from an interest in the engraving techniques that produced works of medieval bestiary) and her loveof the pattern, repetition and texture of antique fabrics and wallpapers to create a gallery of animalialaid out as if it were as innocuous a thing as a repeating wallpaper motif.
The effect of McLellan's approach to the repetition of curiosities is to generate a &ldquo second-glance&ldquo interest, whereby thesumptuousness of pattern draws the viewer into a closer examinationof subject matter. It is here that McLellan's work begins to draw allusions on one level to print metaphors (replica, edition, copy)and at a deeper level to the concept of mutation and itsintroduction of newness, difference and diversity into a geneticpool - a concept that is often viewed in a negative light and whichhas lead to the pejorative connotations of the term 'mutant'. It isthis idea of difference that is both societally unacceptable yetculturally fascinating and McLellan holds up her grotesque andhybridised animals for inspection in the same manner as one would inspect a museum oddity.
McLellan lives and works in Auckland. She lectures in printmaking and is currently the Programme Leader for the Bachelorof Visual Arts degree at Auckland University's Manukau School of Visual Arts. McLellan's work has been exhibited as far afield asFrance, Canada, Spain and Bulgaria and she continues to producework from her Auckland studio.