From Ocean Drive: Mette Tommerup

Smiley People

With a wink and a smile, artist Mette Tommerup takes our emoji obsession - and her canvases- to the next level

by Brett Sokol

in Ocean Drive, January 2018

Do you know the most used emoji? The Face with with Tears of Joy, a seemingly confused figure-stuck somewhere between crying and laughing-that in and of itself represents how many of us feel about those little yellow faces: Have they elevated emotional discourse or sabotaged the human language? Are they helpful or pure evil?

In her new solo show Houseboat, opening this month at Little Haiti’s Emerson Dorsch gallery, artist Mette Tommerup explores emoji culture in grand scale. Her canvases, which measure six feet (up from her previous 16 by 12 inch works) and required the Miami-based artist to create an outdoor studio, take the graphics off our phone screens and place them in lifelike situations (an overcrowded classroom, a cluttered art studio), to reveal that a smiley face is not simply a smiley face. Look a little closer and you’s see that it has sprouted limbs, taken on a new attitude, and in many cases is on the verge of baring its fangs. Tommerup attributes that twisted sensibility to her childhood in Denmark. 

“Deep down, Danes are very angst-ridden,” she says, often deploying humor to deal with the Nordic spirit in a cathartic way. Even more satisfying than poking fun at her demons? Channeling them onto her thickly impastoed canvases. “There’s nothing like oil painting! You can sculpt with paint: I’m literally carving into the paint, constructing and deconstructing, cutting and stripping away at the same time.” With a chuckle she concludes, “It then takes many months to fully dry, which gives oil paint its seductive quality. I hope it seduces the viewer the same way it’s seduced me.”

Mette Tommerup’s artwork is on exhibit beginning January 19 at Emerson Dorsch, 5900 NW Second Ave., Miami 305-576-1278.