article written by Atticus Gordon
Bright, airy, and adorned with hanging plants, Emma Carney’s studio is pleasantly arranged with paintings at once playful, and serious. Smiling and jovial Emma is at home in this comfortable studio setting. She is a painters painter, that is to say, she has fallen in love with the seductive quality of paint and is interested in probing and prodding its possibilities.
Her paintings have different life spans, some come together throughout a single day, while others are worked and reworked, their surfaces becoming heavy with layers of oil paint. Often flat, her paintings explore two-dimensional space through marks and shapes, sometimes slightly alluding to three-dimensional space. Aside from such nerdy painterly concerns, although I love them; as a female painter making abstract work, she is contending with the male-dominated history of abstract painting.
Emma’s practice as an artist revolves around interests in gender dynamics, awkwardness, and discomfort. These ideas are put to canvas through experiential means: she combines her past experiences with how she is feeling in the studio when creating work. Each painting is a culmination of Emma’s experiences, but they remain elusive, always rejecting direct illustration of a specific event. Emma gave me an example of this process with her
painting I Might Just Say How I Feel (Awesomely titled after Drake lyrics). This work funnels her experiences of bad dates, their awkwardness, and the resulting stoicism that these environments force on her behaviour. “The way you feel,” Emma says, “is a result of affectations and the way you find yourself developing in the world.”
Meaning, in painting, is never fixed. It depends on the viewer, who they are, their experiences, and to some degree what they ate for lunch. Considering this, Emma is always interested in how others read her paintings. Emma doesn’t recognize her work in terms of the abstract – representational divide. Her works are post-abstract because they are not purely about shape, form, and colour.Emma describes resemblances as the way a viewer finds connections between the objects in her paintings and objects familiar to the viewer. A thread of humour runs through her practice, helping to keep her paintings fresh and exciting.
I asked Emma what advice she would give to a young artist? She replied, “find an artist whose work you relate to and really get, it helps if they’re famous. When you are feeling sick and tired of your artwork, go and look at their work, and let them help you.” She also recommends finding artists who break away from expectations and who are passionate about what they do, and finally surround yourself with artists!