30 Upstairs would like to introduce you to our second Artist in Residence Emma Chalmers. In her new studio, a room off the gallery, we discuss process, paint and producing work in new surroundings. Her recent works, pictured here, are a small insight to her practice but Emma already feels a sense of departure from them.
JT: Your last show, Around the Block on Tenterhooks was installed beautifully and the images are incredibly powerful. Worlds Apart, in particular, sends a strong message.
EC: The display was a huge part of it, the paintings were hung above the newspaper stacks in The Central Library in Dunedin. The work itself was in response to the Friday morning abortion protests outside the hospital, I pretty much stalked these protestors for about 6 weeks. There was this collision of politics, gender and religion, all things I am very much interested in. I would paint from my car and one time this lady entered into a dialogue with another protestor. It was clear they had opposing views, one holding rosary beads whilst the other wore printed universe hosiery. It seemed so perfect, you know? The two sides are ‘worlds apart’, one believes in science and the other in god.
JT: How are your ideas evolving for your new work?
EC: I guess a lot of my previous work has looked at female roles and ideas concerning fertility. And, what I am wanting to look at now, something that keeps popping into my head, ‘new age suburbia’ and how families are changing. And, how we are beginning to break down those gender roles, the fact that anyone can be ‘the bread winner’.
JT: Aesthetically, it is clear that your work is changing too.
EC: I have noticed since I have moved here that I am going crazy with colour. I think it may be from living in Newtown. The gardens, the bright surrounding on my walk in to the studio. I wouldn’t say that it is ‘changing’, per say. I consider it to be growing or shifting, maybe…
JT: Yes, being your first residency and having the opportunity to paint full-time must open that space for experimentation and development?
EC: I have noticed that I am really pushing artworks because I know I have the time to take the next step. New colours, different formats and different surfaces- to see, how I can best visualise my idea. It has also been challenging being so immersed in it, I almost become a bit overwhelmed by it. Thats when it’s time to go home and come back the next day with fresh eyes. The other thing, living in a new city and being surrounded by new things and places has opened my senses again. The new and unfamiliar. Looking at things I wouldn’t normally take notice of.
JT: You are a couple of weeks into your residency now and you already seem to have found your stride. Without giving away too much, what can we expect from your show?
EC: The exhibition will include both drawings and paintings. At this point I am playing with the work as much I can, already discovering new and unexpected things. I am looking forward to resolving this series and formalising it in the final show. It will be very different from any of my former shows, it is an exciting time for me.
You can see more of Emma’s work on her blog which documents her work and exhibitions.