Emma Cousin makes paintings and drawings that often start with a piece of word-play or colloquial phrase. This then is used as the title of a work that expands on that piece of fragmentary text that is often allusive or playful, for works that feature figures engaged in what might look like private games, relationships or forms of communication with each other. Her works respond to the way language is structured and its limitations.


Cousin has said “The ideas around social systems - how bodies hold each other up, fit together, support or destabilise each other has been a concern for some years. The struggle to find equilibrium physically and psychologically as well as a play with sensorial opposite - pleasure/pain, love/violence, disgust/attraction. The symmetry of the paintings’ design encapsulates that struggle for sure…” (interview with Hettie Judah, 2022)


The figures in Cousin’s works often form a circuit of some sort, as if they might become a machine that collectively articulates a system. Cousin uses the bodies of the figures she depicts to explore ideas around communication and non-communication to question our relationship to each other and also to think about the ways bodies operate in space. That space might be interpreted as a post-human space, where alteration and augmentation allow the subject to create new versions of ourselves in order to communicate with each other. Cousin has stated: “I’m curious about our expectations of our bodies and judgements of other bodies. I’m testing their limits and interested in putting the bodies at risk. They exist in a liminal space which is a place of discomfort, an edge of a boundary.” (Interview, Elephant magazine, June 2018)


Cousin (b. Yorkshire, 1986) has recently exhibited at Xiao Museum, Suzhou, China (2022); Centre for Contemporary Arts, Vesthoffen Kunstlaboratorium, Norway (2022); Goldsmiths, London (2020); Castlefield Gallery (2020); Jerwood Arts (2019); Milton Keynes Art Centre (2019).