Her work is raw, organic, original and completely mesmerising. We sat down with Emily to talk about the importance of sustainability in her work and how deeply connected her pieces are to the landscape that inspires them.
Understanding her process of excavating colour from land is fascinating & exactly why we know Emily is an emerging artist worth watching.
NCA: EMILY, WHAT DO YOU AIM TO SAY THROUGH YOUR ART?
There are a myriad of things I want to say with my work, but perhaps the most important is the highlighting of our own impact upon the environments we inhabit. I am making sustainable artworks to portray an immersive experience within those environments. Thus, my work is an exploration of landscape - most recently the landscape that has come to be from the closing of the mining industries in the 1990s in Cornwall.
I am interested in the process of excavating colour from land - making pigments using waste mining products, earth, rocks, minerals and other foraged materials to make organic, raw and historically enriched hues. I wish to make paintings that act as a viewfinder into a landscape; works that capture the ephemeral yet perpetual spirit of a place and reflect on the geological history of Cornwall.
NCA: WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO THE MEDIUMS YOU NOW WORK WITH?
My choice of raw materials define the areas I’m working with and tell a deep and cultural story about the land I’m working on.
I paint with natural materials that I process by hand myself through a lengthy but rewarding operation of drying, crushing, grinding, sieving and mixing with a binder. Before I worked this way, I made work with conventional shop-bought paint from tubes, but the industrial process behind the making of these paints left my landscape paintings lacking. I became dissatisfied and disheartened with these commercial materials and discovered the art of natural pigment.
I stumbled on the process of making natural dyes with plant materials and then later taught myself how to make paint from rocks and earth. There is so much in the earth that is a better source of authentic and deep colour than what you can find in a tube - ‘true’ earth colours - making works which are indeterminate of their geographic location but nonetheless an insistent sort of fact.
NCA: WHAT ARE YOUR STUDIO ESSENTIALS?
My number one studio essential is my pestle and mortar which allows me to crush down rocks for pigment by hand, without the need for machinery.
Other tools that are important to my working process include a thin wire mesh through which I sieve the crushed rock down to a fine powder and lots of glass jars - which sounds ridiculous - but I need somewhere to keep all my pigments once they have been made!
NCA: HOW IMPORTANT IS THE INFLUENCE OF NATURE IN YOUR WORK?
The influence of nature in my work is crucially important. If my paintings were not being informed by the natural landscape, they would literally cease to exist.
More importantly through, the influence of nature in my work is derived from my own personal experience of it. My paintings are reliant on a field work practice, which means I spend a lot of time out of the studio, on location, sourcing colours, textures and pigments from a site.
I also respond to a location through drawing and photography - both mediums that allow me to create a vocabulary of mark making that will eventually feed into a larger painting about that place. These marks are always informed and influenced by nature whether they are preserved through a drawing or a photograph.
Follow Emily on Instagram @emilyoliviatapp