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“Weltlandschaft” by Emma Webster at Carl Kostyál Gallery, London

March 9, 2021
3 min read
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Carl Kostyál London will be presenting Weltlandschaft, Emma Webster’s first solo show with the gallery. The exhibition opens on 11thMarch and runs until 5th April 2021. The exhibition comprises a series of large oil on linen works, painted with a seductive fluidity and bravura. They are, both in their subject and in-and-of-themselves, contemporary landscape paintings.

Webster’s paintings are, most immediately, paintings of dioramas she constructs in her studio from animal figurines, plastic foliage and backdrops of collaged elements of canonical landscape paintings. More expansively they are paintings that remember the history of the landscape painting and speak also of the often messy and pathetic interface between meatspace and the digital realm.

Weltlandschaft, (transl. ‘world landscape’) the show’s title, is a term that was coined to describe a trend that emerged in some 16thcentury painting in the Low Countries and Germany. These works depicted imaginary, panoramic landscapes seen from God’s-eye view that encompassed the gamut of topographical elements; mountains, lowlands, coasts, waters and buildings. Coinciding with the early years of the Age of Exploration and thus colonization, it was a development similarly fuelled by the prejudice that nature was something to be measured and tamed by human exceptionalism. The world as property. Interestingly the genre’s most prominent example is Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, in which, famously, Icarus’ fatal fall into the sea is an incidental, almost unnoticed detail.

Photo credit: Michael Allen

Half-a-millennia later the fatal consequences of humanity’s hubris are writ all over the land, air and sea. Yet the deadpan implication of Webster’s paintings is that we’d rather stay cocooned in a world of cheap fiction. Like the obsessive fans of Chinese livestreaming ‘stars’ who choose to believe in the backdrops depicting luxury penthouses and five-star environments that frame the performed lives of their idols, we’d rather not look behind the curtain.

Photo credit: Michael Allen

Emma Webster, “Natural History”, 2020, Oil on linen

Emma Webster, “Dove Hollow”, 2020, Oil on linen

Emma Webster (USA/UK, b. 1989) lives and works in Los Angeles. She earned an MFA in Painting from Yale School of Art (2018) and BA in Art Practice from Stanford University (2011).

Recent exhibitions include Alexander Berggruen, New York, Lancaster Museum of Art & History (MOAH), Lancaster, CA; Zevitas Marcus, Los Angeles; Asya Geisberg Gallery, New York; Joshua Liner Gallery, New York; Thomas Erben, New York; and Next to Nothing, New York. Her work is in the collection of the Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA.

She will also participate in the group exhibition Stockholm Sessions at Carl Kostyál, Stockholm in May 2021.

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