Rory Emmett was born in 1992 in Cape Town, South Africa. Emmett lives and works in Cape Town. He completed his BAFA at Michaelis School of Fine Art, UCT in 2014, where he majored in painting and won the Judy Steinberg Painting Prize in his final year. Emmett was a Top 5 Sasol New Signatures Merit Award winner for 2015 as well as an SPI Portrait Award 2015 finalist. In 2016 Emmett went on to teach art at Cedar High School of the Arts in Mitchell’s Plain, Cape Town. He subsequently completed his PGCE with art and design didactics through the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in 2017. After the success of Emmett’s first solo show Concerning Alchemy (2017), he decided to pursue working full-time as a practicing artist. In 2018 Emmett was selected as a top 5 finalist for the ARPArt Video Competition, in Cape Town/Italy for his work ‘Concerning Alchemy’, and was most recently nominated as a finalist for the inaugural edition of the Emerging Painting Invitational (EPI), which took place at the First Floor Gallery in Harare, Zimbabwe (2019). He held his latest solo show at 99 Loop Gallery titled HEWN (2021).
Emmett works in a de-constructivist approach to the language, performance and alchemy of painting. Through his artistic practice he attempts to explore notions of space, knowledge and identity creation, often times employing both allegory and reality, towards a metaphysical and spiritual state of transcendence – an attempt at elevation beyond the superficial or mundane. Emmett performs as his constructed avatar, The Cape Colourman, who he has been developing over the past few years. He employs the character as a means of activating and interpreting space and time. Employing various devices through the lens of painting, he attempts to explore dominant discourses surrounding South Africa’s growing democracy and somewhat idealistic notions of ‘Rainbowism’. Emmett interrogates colour and its various ideological and material implications, referencing the personal and political by working with what he finds around and within himself as his most immediate point of departure. Consulting Eurocentric ideals of beauty and success that perpetually infiltrate and influence the contemporary African landscape, Emmett attempts to draw attention to that which is sometimes taken for granted and “normalized” through symbolic violence.
Emmett’s most recent projects include a group exhibition which he organized and curated at 99 Loop Gallery titled ‘The Devil Loves When We Loathe Ourselves’ (2018), a performance called “I Feel Most Coloured When I Am Thrown Against A Sharp Black And White Background” (2018) as part of a group exhibition titled ‘The Main Complaint’ at Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town. Emmett held his second solo show at 99 Loop Gallery in April of 2019 titled Building Ground: Grey Areas, and his third solo show shortly afterwards at SMAC gallery in May titled Reprise (2019).