Emma Armstrong-Porter <em>Breaking out of the psych ward to go to the Tote</em> 2022; linocut on grey paper; ed. 1/15. Commissioned by the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2022<br/>
© Emma Armstrong-Porter. Photo: Jessica Schwientek

Emma Armstrong-Porter

Emma Armstrong-Porter
(b. 1986, Melbourne. Lives and works in Melbourne)

Emma Armstrong-Porter is an emerging multidisciplinary artist whose practice centres on relief printmaking and chemistry-based photographic techniques. Often employing the visual language of tattoos, their work is influenced by lived experiences of queerness, autism, mental illness and institutionalisation, as well as consumerism and suburbia.

Commissioned for the Print Portfolio, Breaking out of the psych ward to go to The Tote, 2022, explores tattoos as a form of autoethnography. The linocut depicts a graphic hand – inscribed with an idiosyncratic and personal semiotic system – that narrates the artist’s own story of institutionalisation. Drawing inspiration from prison tattoos, where symbols like cathedrals and citadels are inked onto prisoners’ bodies to indicate time spent incarcerated, Armstrong-Porter’s church is the iconic Collingwood pub, The Tote. Between an image of the rock-and-roll venue’s facade and a skull and crossbones scored with the initials VB for Victoria Bitter, a single swallow flies with outstretched wings, a tattoo motif that traditionally symbolises a safe return home for sailors and, for Armstrong-Porter, the possibility of freedom.

Breaking out of the psych ward to go to The Tote is a continuation of their ongoing linocut collection, The Swanston Street Series, exhibited at Fitzroy’s B-Side in 2021 and which was created over a six-year period when Armstrong-Porter was periodically hospitalised in local psychiatric units. The series examines perceived problems in the Victorian public mental-healthcare system, particularly for queer people.

Armstrong-Porter was the recipient of the Midsumma Australia Post Arts Prize in 2021 and was a finalist in the Bowness Photography Prize in 2020. They co-founded NOIR darkroom, a Coburg gallery and photographic darkroom that ran from 2017 to 2021, and have exhibited in Melbourne, regional Victoria and interstate.