Seen, unseen

Author: Emily Gordon

Seen, Unseen

Emily Gordon
1 September 2020

Gordon, E. (2020). Seen, Unseen. (An abstract of a thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the Master of Fine Arts at the Dunedin School of Art, Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand)


Emily Gordon’s work focuses on the domestic space of the home. These spaces are not warm or comforting, emotions that would normally be associated with the home, instead they are moody, uneasy and uncanny. They become what is referred to as ‘The Unhomely.’ Gordon uses her own childhood home as a reference for her drawn works and in doing so is able to uncover nostalgia and examine her own childhood fears of the home shrouded in darkness at night. Horror films have been a strong influence for her and she examines how horror has been able to create the unhomely and play off childhood fears, for example the horror trope of the monster under the bed or in the closet. Gordon also aims to engage the same sense of foreboding and dread which is present in truly successful horror films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, 1960 and Georges Franju’s Eyes Without a Face, 1960. An aspect that becomes relevant to her is that of the partially depicted body. When the identity of the person is hidden it creates unease and ambiguity. Gordon aims to make the role of the victim and the hostile aggressor indistinguishable in her work, enabling further  uncertainty. She takes inspiration from artist Michaël Borremans whose uncanny figures often have their faces turned away from the viewer, being thus exceptionally successful in creating unease. For Gordon the medium of drawing is important to her practice; she uses the properties of charcoal to leave ghostlike impressions of the hand and fingers, thus adding to the unsettling atmosphere of the work. Gordon’s large scale black and white works invoke a cinematic sensitivity and the murky greys and impregnable blacks underpin a sense of dread.

Key words: Drawing; Unhomely; Horror; Film; Uncanny; Figure.

Emily Gordon’s Master of Fine Arts was supervised by Graham Fletcher and Leoni Schmidt.


This abstract is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial licence CC BY-NC 4.0 International. The thesis is not publicly available online. A bound hard copy is or will be available to borrow for research purposes from the Robertson Library, University of Otago. 

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