Category Archives: 2016 – 2017 academic year

Imperfectionism

I feel like starting a movement. Something to do with the joys of imperfection. After all, the works I am currently producing rely on this. They could not be a conversation if they also needed to be ‘perfect’. In an interview Gormley stated:

There was a time just after I moved into the new studio when it was just full of clay and i was trying to find a way of making that wasn’t imposing an image on the material but allowing a one-to-one relationship between my body and the body of the clay. The forms arose naturally from the space between my hands; clay was another way of dealing with the flesh.

Biggs, McGonagle and Bann. Antony Gormley. London. Tate Publishing 1993

This ‘space’ is what interests me the most. The space where the work emerges. 

I have been making a lot of work over the last two weeks. It has been an exciting time that I will need to finish fairly soon so that the work has some breathing space before I select the pieces I will be exhibiting in Sheffield.

My new website should go live this week and is something I am extremely proud of. It is sleek and simple with professionally shot photographs of my current work. It is my shop front, not my storage container! Here is a little peek:

Life story.

When I was 15 my then Art teacher said to me: “Emma, you never know when to stop! You overwork everything!”. At 18, as a new student of Art I was told by a lecturer “if you want to make it in the Art world, you have to find the hole in the market and fill it!”. A little part of me died. At 19 a college professor pulled me into his office and, in his too-tight trousers, swore that he would find out where I was plaigarising from. Nearly everyone left his office in tears. At 21 I was training to be an art teacher in East London and a colleague of mine was being threatened by a parent. His crime was to have joked that the Bengali girls should do all the cleaning up. He wanted to get them to refuse – to reject stereotypes and to insist the boys helped. Instead, a family assumed that he was abusing his position of authority and we were told to leave the site safely. The school had police escorts ensuring that the students left the site without gang fighting with a nearby school.

And then there was the incident of the man who had my heart, being killed. We were no longer together though. As if that makes it alright?

Then what? What do I do but fall back on sentimentality, lucky charms, books and greetings cards and the smell of sweet peas and tea. I roll the pages of my sketch books through my hands. These vast collections of scribbled thoughts, desperate longing, and sadnesses that I feel guilty for owning. Because I have this beautiful family, these incredible friends, this amazing child and a job I adore. I didn’t deserve to feel bad about stuff. I hadn’t earned the right. Suffered enough.

Colour is my therapy, my muse. I squeeze it from the tube; great glistening fruits of yellow and pink. Cherries and sunsets, fireworks and celebrations. If I swamp myself in enough colour I am happy. If I surround myself with seductive nudity, I own it. It is part of me.

But it isn’t. It wasn’t. It was a charade. The colours drown out an emptiness and the flamboyant​ figures a masquerade. And I’m there teaching other people techniques and trying to fill a world with images that are empty of ‘me’ – because they are not allowed to exist fully, or to feel genuine. They can be aesthetically pleasing and have their own sadness or raunch. As long as it is not mine.

And I’m reminded of all of these artistic encounters. Of people who said things and made me feel. Of artists who move me and of why I do what I do. And I do love what I do. And I’m no longer this caged bird who hides from judgement and pretends my work is pretty and acceptable and polite. I’m free from the perception that the world needs me to be something; colourful and prolific and joyful. Because that is not real. Instead, as I reinvent my website and my portfolio, I want to acknowledge the growth this MA journey has allowed me. I am open to my own pain. I acknowledge my sadnesses and my joys. I feel the cool air making my eyes water and I let the tears roll; as comfortably as letting the laughter hurt my cheeks. My conversation is with materials – it is process led, real discovery; authenticity. It is my exploration (supported by a fairly sizeable amount of academic rigour, and experimentation). These conversations with the work are the air in my lungs. There is no right or wrong. Only the process. Only the engagement. And when it rears its ugly, unconventional, bruised head, I pull it to me, recognising a friend.

Come on over and paint!

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Bringing the gin and art together at this awesome party in Camden, this was a fortieth party with a difference. When you mix someone’s two loves, and persuade their closest friends to enjoy both with them, the result is something quite wonderful: if entirely abstract. With each participant working on their own canvas and then collaborating on a large canvas, we were all very much part of a ‘happening’. The gin was flowing, the music was blasting, the Charlie Chaplin movie was playing in the background and we were all thoroughly absorbed in being ARTISTS.

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In a sea of plastic covering every surface in the venue, we all worked in a variety of different styles, every now and them realising that we were so absorbed the entire room was silent except for the music. This was something quite unexpected. I turned around and noticed that there was a row of people all fully immersed in their painting, all looking down, silent, concentrating. Three people told me that they had not painted since they left school and that they had enjoyed it so much because it had reminded them of the simple pleasures of making something. One told me that she was going to start taking painting classes.

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I couldn’t help but think that the art was around us, amongst us and, noticeably ON us. The control freak in me was trying my hardest to live in the moment and not worry about the person who might walk oil paint over the uncovered parts of the floor. There was a slowing of breath, there was a silencing of chitter-chatter, there was a pleasure in the movement of paint against canvas, and of seeing an idea come to life.

Joy!

Hi, I’m Emma and I’m….

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AN ARTIST.

During a fantastic lecture given by Harriet Loffler, (Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Norwich Castle and Art Gallery) we were asked to introduce ourselves briefly. I talked about my practice and my collaborations and my love of working in tandem and of making work others can take on a journey and of unfamiliar marks. But, more importantly, I DIDN’T MENTION THAT I AM AN ART TEACHER! I ALSO DIDN’T MENTION BEING A MOTHER. Not that these aren’t intrinsically part of who I am, and parts that I am extremely proud of. But in the context of who I am as an artist, these factors shape my ideas but not necessarily my identity. Whilst Harriet started her lecture I was smiling. This is REAL. You, Emma, don’t need the scaffolding of being an art teacher to describe your practice, in fact the two things are quite independent; though they may cross and overlap.

Harriet’s lecture was extremely insightful. Her experience of working with a range of artists and of curating numerous exhibitions gave us insight into the experience of creating such diverse exhibitions; including the work of Hubert Duprat, 400 years of British Art as a co-collections exhibition, and the British Art Show 8. The word choreography stands out in my notes, and the idea of ‘knowledge production’, marrying the needs of the artist and the institution; such as how people move around the space and engage with works. Harriet answered all of our questions about interaction with curators and getting work shown. She has given me plenty of food for thought.