The unpeople

IT’S a dark view of circus: huge sombre canvases, at first suggesting an almost cartoon cheeriness with their child-like subjects, are soon seen as disturbing.

“Are they children, or tiny adults? What’s really going on in there?” the distortions and exaggerations have the audience pondering.

“It’s about things that make us feel uncomfortable,” artist Emma Margetts tells the Herald.

The South Fremantle local straddles both worlds, journeying from being a young artist to circus performer and back again.

“When I started art school I realised I needed more life experience to paint,” she says.

And what better way than the life of a circus performer, studying with Circus Oz and the Footscray Women’s Circus.

But Margetts’ heart was always in art and after a nomadic life as a street performer and in circus theatre she found a home in the west.

“I found Fremantle and thought it was divine and I stopped.”

Her latest exhibition The Others is a cultural metaphor for those who don’t fit mainstream society’s idea of “normal”.

• Emma Margetts—making us feel uncomfortable. Photo by Matthew Dwyer

• Emma Margetts—making us feel uncomfortable. Photo by Matthew Dwyer

“Often we project onto others that they are different from us,” Margetts, an arts lecturer, says.

But difference is just a matter of perception.

“What we perceive as ‘other’ can often be aspects of ourselves that we have not yet assimilated into our concept of self.

“The dwarf, the thin man, the fat lady, the ventriloquist…can all be reflections of aspects of the unaccepted/unacceptable self.”

The Others is also a “metaphorical” reference to asylum seekers, Margetts says

“Our government is ‘othering’ them, making them different from us.”

Rather than internalising her anger at what she regards as a gross injustice, Margetts is donating part-proceeds from her exhibition to the Refugee Rights Action Network.

Which may well be a tidy sum, with 15 of the 20 canvases sold in the first few days of opening.

The Others is upstairs at the Moores Building, Henry Street, Fremantle until February 22.


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