Brent: Lines have been your thing from when I can first remember – and probably before that too. And for you, the lines and their infinite variety is the motivating bee in your bonnet, with a focus that is almost too obsessive, but it is what is for you – mostly.
There is a place we reach, on occasion, where we stop, turn around, and contemplate what it is that we have done. And if you are anything like me that re-visitation seldom gets in the road. There is always a concern to go forward, whatever direction that is.
This all might come across as a lonesome journey, and it is! It is what you do, uniquely. But there are shared concerns, especially as it is mostly a visual obsession.
Emma: You’re right – I have been painting using this method for over 20 years now, with no sign that I have come to an end. Initially, the lines were a practical and logical method for constructing a composition, whilst also springing from an immersive and meditative process.
Ironically, over the past few years, I have recognized that the lines are essentially the vessel and the true focus is the glitch, the fracture, the fragmenting and coalescing of form. That said, the method is something which cannot change: it is the constant and gives me momentum.
Brent: I think immersive and meditative process needs to be understood, in the laying down of the foundations of each work.
Emma: My process is unchanging and rather intensive. I apply tape to the surface, mark out each increment and incise the lines, peeling away the areas which are to be painted. After the application of paint, I peel the remaining tape away. By establishing parameters prior to commencement, it is possible to remove decision-making from this step and become entranced in the making itself.
Brent: The work on flat panels, and especially the more allover pieces, embrace a range of geometric motifs embedded into the predominantly vertical veins. There is the X, the horizontal band (discreetly moving through the vertical), the curlicue and cross. These motifs sometimes become a stronger focus when you pair down the lines and/or move away from the vertical trance. I like the overload of the verticals. I was wondering if there is a reason for mainly using them?
Emma: Many years ago, the lines tended to follow a circuitous route, later predominantly horizontals. My move towards solely verticals is partly to enhance the way they interfere with vision: horizontals tend to be easier to read, where verticals have a jarring effect. I am also interested in the way I relate physically to the work, with the verticals being incised towards the body becoming evidence of the action itself.
Brent: I figured the use of the vertical had to do with the body orientation, and the vertical zing a choice to do with the ocular. But what about those underlying forms, where do they sit in the scheme of things?
Emma: These forms are incised very late in the process, immediately before the application of enamel paint. The ‘X’, the diagonals, all of these compositional elements are ways to create a discrepancy in the reading of the work – sometimes the lines tie the form together despite fragmentation, and at others I want to emphasize the breaks themselves. Curiously, it always takes me a few days to decide what gesture should be made, as though the painting itself suggests the form. The line is incised with the back of a blade, which risks obliterating the labour which has gone before and this creates a form simultaneously coming into and disappearing from sight, like a weak signal amongst so much noise.
Brent: In your new work there is a dimensional shift. What looks flat starts to create a three dimensional structure within the screen, and then shifts to perform another boogie. All along this static or weak signal veils the actual beat. I think the lines help animate the whole experience. Given the very defined focus the new work feels a leap forward into another dance.
Emma: I love the idea of a dance – I have been thinking of lava and ice floes, of things which dissipate or coalesce over time. I’m starting to explore how, if the lines create the illusion of a plane, there can be a dynamism within something which is fixed. In a static artwork, it can be a challenge to create movement, so it is gratifying when someone reads a painting as having depth, of twisting or pushing in and out of the frame. I’m intent on creating ambiguity between what Rosalind Krauss calls the centrifugal and centripetal nature of the grid, of creating a space which contradicts itself and cannot be easily read.
Brent: Jostling on a flat plane is one thing, but you have also gone one step further, or five steps, and brought the painting experience into the cube. What made you do that?
Emma: Initially, this was a way of thinking through the way the eye reads a surface differently when it is lying flat – it was economical to work on six differently oriented planes simultaneously. The fractures and voids operate in new ways when they wrap around the cube’s exterior. I find them to be quite playful, ambiguous, versatile objects, arranged individually or as a group. Painting all six sides was intended to present a conundrum and to create a new set of decisions: they can become modules of a larger form, or operate discretely, depending on how they are displayed.
Brent: I think it’s fun that you are not putting these up on a pedestal, and they can be picked up and manipulated. The cubes are small enough to belong to this personal or even private space, where the body and architectural elements play a lesser role, where instead the eyes, hands and memory pick up on the fractures, textures and inferences of each cube. It’s a different space from painting or large scale sculpture.
Emma: Yes, and the interaction of the cubes creates endless new forms. They are very useful in this way, to me. Curiously, they tend to look a bit monumental in photographs, unless you know the scale. Their tactility and mobility allows them to become approachable objects, which fit in your hands.