Emanuelle Schaer’s work is an exploration of the turmoil involved in processing emotional pain and inner conflict. The artist emphasizes the struggle that occurs before resolution, at the point when the subjects are becoming aware of but have yet to contend with their situations. The artist uses her personal experiences as a basis for her sculptures, leading to a form of visual expression akin to a diary. Much of her work centers on the struggle with community norms, cultural expectations, and the subsequent pain of personal and self inflicted constraints.
She primarily investigates these vulnerabilities through the use of the female form, focusing heavily on body language and facial expressions. The figures are distorted through the use of text, abstraction, and fragmented sections in order to advance the visual language. On occasion, her work incorporates movement through puppetry articulation, serving to further express the emotion of the piece.
The sculptures are created in paper mâché, constructed from a variety of kozo papers selected to represent the work. The paper is torn into small pieces and layered over a plasticine sculpture, which is removed once the walls of paper are thick enough to support themselves. The intimate process of turning individual strips of paper into durable forms is a subtle metaphor for the layered complexities involved in resolving emotional conflicts and shedding conventions. Identifying the motivations behind subconscious reactions is a slow and laborious process that is echoed by the systematic layering of the thin sheets of paper.
The imperfection of the paper is primary, adding a layer of vulnerability to the work as it absorbs instead of reflecting the light. The sculptures are raw and exposed; their emotions are on display with no shield. The color is consequently minimal, accentuating the undercuts and shadows without consuming the pieces. The additional elements of the sculptures provide insight into the conflict, allowing for a conversation between the sculpture and the bystander without distracting from the subject.
The artist’s work is simultaneously isolating and inviting, causing the viewer to connect to the sculpture in a visceral way that calls forth a need to reach out and console. That urge should be comingled with hesitation and discomfort as the spectator begins to regard himself as an intrusive observer; one who is encroaching on the subject’s most vulnerable moments of self-reflection and pain. The work is difficult to look at but impossible to disregard.