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Emma de Clario

Portrait of Australian artist Emma de Clario, by Ilona Nelson for This Wild Song
Portrait of Australian artist Emma de Clario, by Ilona Nelson for This Wild Song

About Emma

Emma de Clario is a practicing Melbourne-based visual artist, whose practice explores the tenacious yet fragile human spirit.

De Clario has exhibited extensively in Australia, in various group shows, including solo shows at Francis Keevil Gallery, Damien Minton Gallery (NSW), The Woodbine Gallery (Vic), Anita Traverso Gallery and [MARS] Melbourne Art Rooms.

In 2008 she was the winner of the Renault New Generation Artist of the Year Award, and was the recipient of the Linden Postcard Prize.

Her work focuses entirely on exposing the inexplicable, broken and yet shining tenacity of the human spirit.

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Emma’s artworks

Interview with Emma De Clario

How do you describe your work to others?
What a difficult and interesting question!
How can one describe with words accurately a thing that they have made that is a visual expression of an experience?

Trees and sky and whatever that invisible thing is inside them that makes them glow is what I attempt to capture with my paintings, and I will attempt to capture that illusive thing that has no name for the rest of my life, I think.

Do you have a preferred medium?
Paint, Gum turps, Linseed oil, Beeswax, Damar and a good brush, I paint on wood rather than canvas, I don’t know why that is, I always have. Something about the weave in the canvas annoys me. I seem to be able to paint with the grain of the wood. When I paint on canvas its as if I am painting against the weave.

How do you begin new work?
I empty my thoughts (which is very hard!) and let something else that also doesn’t have a name, do the thinking and wait for the idea to come. Usually it comes to me like a map and its whole and as I read the map it makes sense and fits in together perfectly.

Do you tend to work in series or do you see your body of work as a continuation?
We all go through stages in our lives of sorrow, joy, depression, delights, boredom and my work reflects those times.

What attracts you to your subjects?
The mirroring of my inner world and outer world at the time of the work.

What processes do you use to bring your ideas to life?
To produce a work I give myself time to observe and wait. I then notice the environment around me from a different perspective, and the work seems to come from that silence space between the thinking and the doing.

What do you use as reference material?
That’s funny. My partner loves to paint pleine aire for hours and hours and hours on holidays and so I sit beside him and try to myself, and cant. If there’s a tree or a branch or a cloud I cant seem to follow the rule of the truth of the reality and fact of that tree or branch or cloud. I change it or leave it out if I don’t like it.

Do you work intuitively or more consciously?
It is most definitely intuitive, the work comes from an emotion I am feeling at the time and the painting paints itself. It’s never planned.

Do you aim to create the finished piece exactly as you envisioned or enjoy allowing it to develop organically?
I try to develop a piece as I initially imagined it to be but that never ends up being the case and as the piece is worked on it becomes itself. The trick is, to know when to stop, and being aware of that ‘stopping time’ as I paint.

What’s your favourite colour to work with?
Olive green. It is absolutely unbelievable what I true olive green can do to a cloud, a tree and a sky. Olive green is magic.

Where do you create?
I create my work in my studio that is in my house; I only recently have moved my studio home so I can paint whenever I feel like it and my children can be a part of that process. A lot of the time my work is produced on the kitchen table.

Do you have a studio ritual to start the session?
No, I could never do something so orderly; although there’s a part of me that would love to think that I would meditate, clean my brushes, say a prayer, but no, that’s so not me. My brushes are in a terrible state and the stillness and ritual of meditation continues to elude me.

What’s your favourite music to work to?
Radio National. Full stop.

Do you enjoy coming up with titles?
Yes, as the painting paints its self, it also titles its self.
My titles are a huge part of my work, some artists I know believe the work should speak for itself therefore remained ‘untitled’ for me though the work and the title are the same and one without the other is unfinished

What’s your favourite part of creating?
The curiosity of the fact that as things out live people, the wondering of where and how a painting will find it’s various homes.

What advice would you give to your emerging self?
Be brave. Trust your hands. Block your ears.

Have you ever worked with a mentor?
No, I don’t…. I have many mentors like moments that come from the most unexpected places. I often think, though, that a relationship with a mentor like the renaissance mentor and apprentice would be an extraordinary relationship to experience.

How do you alleviate the down times?
With tears.

What defining moments have you experienced within your practice?
One night when my children where very small, they were sleeping and I had a poem or a painting or a song in me that needed to explode…. You know that feeling of middle of the night silence… the world is still and there is a poem in you and you cannot rest or sleep until it is out…I had nothing to paint on, and so I painted on the wooden chopping board in the kitchen and discovered the joy of wood! The knife marks in the chopping board were like a storm… It was so amazing to me… since then I have always painted on wood….

What challenges have you experienced?
Many and everything.
The complex division between creating something truthfully and with integrity and earning a living. You cannot merge the two.
And yet…
Art is art food is food money is money…
There is THE challenge and the conflict..

You are also an actor and a mother, what is like fulfilling these different roles?
They both help each other; I’m better at both because of the other.

Do you find it easy to transition between them or are they all interwoven?
It changes daily, sometimes I feel like I’m required to be a hundred different people at once and at other times I am one complex, rational, multifaceted person just like we all are.

What is the most memorable artwork you have seen and why?
Rothko. I wept. The color.

If you could ask any artist any question, what would it be?
I would ask Pablo Neruda why he had to die so soon before I could meet him and learn anything that he was willing to teach me.

What does the future hold for you?
Everything… the rest of my life…?

Continually searching for balance. Working in a way that allows me true expression and that is recognized and responded to by others, from the same point as I’ve created it.

Ideally, it would be a glorious gift to continue to paint and act, and earn a living from them.

Emma’s website

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