Emma Walker: The Dark Sublime
Lismore Regional Gallery | 31 Aug till 20 Oct | Opening Friday 13 Sep 6pm | Artist Talk Thursday 10 October 11am
After long months in her Mullumbimby studio exploring the abstract complexity of the forest floor, artist Emma Walker reveals her most recent works in her latest exhibition The Dark Sublime.
What is it about the forest floor that we overlook? Have we missed something integral that has existed right under our feet?
There is so much going on down there beneath our feet! Like many, I used to see forests as being collections of individual trees that were all competing for sunlight and nutrients. After reading The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben, I came to understand that, beneath the surface, trees are connecting, communicating, and bartering with each other via their root systems and the networks of mycelium that act as intermediaries between them all.
What effect did reading The Hidden Life of Trees have on you?
It really captured my imagination, this notion of interconnectivity. It is a very heartening and beautiful thing to consider. It seems to me that nature has a lot to teach us about how we could live. Also, a reminder that we are not separate from nature – we too are part of this whole thing. While reading the book, I found myself trying to imagine what it might be like down there, in the darkness of the soil. Perhaps silent and airless but also busy and so full of life. Something about the fact that it is invisible to us and still largely unknown, that there is still mystery here, this too is somehow lovely to contemplate.
What’s the process of painting towards an exhibition like for you?
It usually starts playfully and experimentally and ends with an explosion of deadline-related stress. But working towards a show gives me a kind of framework that brackets an idea and a period of time in my making history.
Is The Dark Sublime a comment on our exploitation of nature or perhaps our inability to see the natural world in its complexity? Do you try to impart meaning in your work?
It could be… but I don’t really want my work to be didactic. I like the idea that the viewer can take what they want from it. I do not want to impose meaning. For me the inherent nature of abstraction is the openness of it. I’m a bit suspicious of certainty; I like ambiguity.
What kind of emotional journey do you go through painting your works? Is it a bit of a discovery for you?
It is always a process of search and discovery, as I do not plan my paintings. They come about through the evolution of process. It is usually an emotional rollercoaster, as I am constantly flailing around in the unknown. This can be both exhilarating and scary as hell.
Your abstractions have such an organic feel – it’s like looking under the skin. How hard is it as an artist to find unseen spaces?
Well, I think it’s both hard and easy. On one hand there’s little that hasn’t been done and yet each artist’s or person’s view and perception of the world will be different and unique. We only need to peer inside our own minds to find unseen spaces.
What painting are you most satisfied with? Why?
I am seldom satisfied. Mick and Keith could have written that song for me.
Tell me about this exhibition. How many pieces, how long it’s hanging, where it goes next?
There are only about six paintings in the show but there will be other elements in the space to accompany them. The show will be held at the Lismore Regional Gallery and runs from 31 August till 20 October. After that it will head down to Arthouse Gallery in Sydney with more inclusions that I have yet to paint.
Emma Walker’s exhibition The Dark Sublime is on show at Lismore Regional Gallery 31 August till 20 October with the official opening on Friday 13 September at 6pm. She will deliver an artist talk Thursday 10 October at 11am.