EMMA STRANGWAYES-BOOTH: In Dreams
Emma Strangwayes-Booth is an artist. Extraordinarily versatile, Emma is a master figurative painter, talented illustrator as well as an accomplished conceptual contemporary artist. Inspired by the natural world, ancient myths, spirit photography and the psychology of dreams, Emma depicts figures or seemingly mundane objects behind which lie a darker biographical narrative, and seeks to treat her work as a means to explore her obsession with her own past in order to understand her present. Emma was born in Johannesburg, South Africa and educated in the United Kingdom. She now lives and works near Paris, France.
Interview by Melissa Unger.
DID YOUR CHILDHOOD HAVE AN IMPACT ON THE ARTIST YOU ARE TODAY?
I have a strong memory of being about 6 or 7 years old and running my fingers over the thick layered oil paint of (South African artist) Bill Ainslie’s beautiful abstract expressionist portrait of my mother and sister and realising that skin wasn’t just pink but all these other colours – it was such an amazing revelation. I was very lucky growing up as I was surrounded by a lot of very good art, from different times and with different styles, so I was aware early on that there is more than one way to tell a story.
TELL US A BIT ABOUT HOW YOUR DREAMS AFFECT YOUR CREATIVITY:
I write down any vivid dreams I have had (it makes for very interesting reading later on) and then they usually make their way into my work in some shape or form. I really believe in analysing dreams as a way to understand what’s going on inside your head.
WHERE DOES THE STARTING POINT FOR A NEW WORK TYPICALLY SPRING FROM?
I often start thinking about the form or colour of my next work when I am in the middle of a piece. But mainly it can be as simple as a quote in the newspaper, a poem, or a photograph I’ve taken – my work has long running concepts though so it’s often just a way of re interpreting those.
YOU ARE A VERY VERSATILE ARTIST. IS THERE ONE PARTICULAR MODE OF EXPRESSION THAT FEELS THE MOST INSTINCTIVE ?
I suppose drawing – I always have a sketchbook and pen with me so I can sketch or write down ideas. I do quite a lot of prep for painting, which involves drawing and collage and this way I’m not worrying too much about making mistakes – in fact the mistakes often inform the final piece!
PLEASE SHARE SOMETHING THAT HAS HAD A PROFOUND IMPACT ON YOU CREATIVELY:
Well the birth of my son changed everything for me, I stopped using oils as the smell made me sick when I was pregnant and started using acrylics which has had a major effect on my style – its looser now. I also have fewer hours in the day and so after he was born I just drew and drew charting the physical and psychological change having a baby had had on me. Last year I also had a major life and death experience which has defiantly had a profound creative affect on me and I would say that I can very clearly see my work in terms of before and after the event.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON?
I am just about to start a painting inspired by fake spirit photography, blurred movement and the Tenebrist’s painters (like Ribero) contrast of light and dark – where darkness dominates.
A WORD OF ADVICE TO THOSE STARTING OUT ON THE CREATIVE JOURNEY?
It sounds a bit naff but believe in what you have to say, don’t worry about what others are doing, keep making the work and keep educating yourself.
Published: February 20th, 2012