VITRINE Gallery present Tutelaries, Emii Alrai’s first London solo exhibition, which takes the form of a new installation of sculptures echoing ancient tombs and their spiritual presence.
Alrai is a first generation British-Iraqi artist whose practice is informed by inherited nostalgia, historical identity and post-colonial museum practices. Through sculpture and installation, Alrai weaves together narrative from oral histories and ancient mythologies of the Middle East by forging artefacts and visualising residues of cultural collisions.
Alrai’s sensibility towards shared histories enables her to construct meaning around the work she produces using common materials such as cardboard, clay, plaster, sand and metal. Her heavy processes of patination and oxidisation make her work look worn and aged, replicating wall textures seen in the Middle East.
For Tutelaries, Alrai draws from the concept of a tutelary as a protector or guardian, which expresses the concept of safety usually associated with a sacred location. The art objects displayed become tutelary relics, however, in their reconfiguring they are replicas or false tutelary objects appropriated for Western display. The notion of protector is pertinent to historic relics, which today remain housed in museums or collections removed from their original placement and out of danger, and Alrai assigns her contemporary objects to such protection, creating fictional artefacts and cultural residue.
By re-staging the inherent identity of objects in the conflicting settings of an ancient space, contemporary art gallery and public square, Alrai explores the histories and heritage of their attached narratives, while furthering her research into the displacement of stolen artefacts and their display in western museums.
Tutelaries runs at VITRINE Gallery from 10 July – 20 September
Naila Scargill is the publisher and editor of horror journal Exquisite Terror. Holding a broad editorial background, she has worked with an eclectic variety of content, ranging from film and the counterculture, to political news and finance.