Emily Platzer is one of the five artists who will be exhibiting in 'Selfhood.'
Emily creates her paintings through a very personal and meditative process, using the beat of Shamanic drums to guide her. The deep, rich colours she uses are mixed herself using traditional techniques and powder pigments. She paints rounded abstract shapes, almost resembling figures, which have a spiritual quality to them. In 2019 Emily was chosen for a residency with The Fine Art Collective, where she further developed her material and colour research. Thinking outside the studio and gallery environment is a large part of her practice, and she has staged projects in Sicily, Corsica and Southern France, exhibiting large scale works outside in balance with nature.
Read our interview below to find out about the inspiration behind these new works, studio life in Paris and why this new series is so personal to her.
Photo credit: Colombe Clier
Interview with Emily
BB: WE WOULD LOVE TO KNOW WHAT THE INSPIRATION WAS FOR THIS BODY OF WORK?
EP: India and Lollo invited me to participate in Selfhood back in October, at this point I was six months pregnant, so it was an interesting moment to start a new body of work. I think that my inspiration behind the work could be described as responding to the long tide and short tide. The short tide is found in the action of entering a painting journey, the specificity of colours chosen, the question or meditation I bring with me in that specific moment and the experience that follows. The long tide is made up of the world around me, the slower moving forces, my developing pregnancy, the people I meet and the things I see. There is a beautiful church next to my studio, Notre Dame de Lorrette. I have visited often over the past few months and watched a team of painters carry out the restoration of the 19th century frescos. These wondrous paintings slowly revealing themselves have been very uplifting to me during periods of closure and restrictions in Paris due to Covid-19. The ritual of visiting the church also sustained my thinking surrounding the tradition of fresco painting, my spherical sculptures are made using fresco secco technique, pigment on plaster.
BB: WE KNOW IT'S A SPECIAL TIME FOR YOU PERSONALLY, TELL US A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT HOW YOUR PREGNANCY HAS AFFECTED YOUR PROCESS, THE WORKS AND THE TITLES.
EP: Making this work in the final months of pregnancy was physically challenging and heart opening, I needed to reach into the paintings but also to project outward. I was able to perform some fears in the studio, one of these being my fear surrounding losing the physical capacity to make large scale paintings. My rate of production has been slower, yet I found my established rituals of painting quite well adapted to pregnancy. I paint on stretched canvases on the floor; squatting, reaching, and stretching – so painting effectively became my prenatal yoga. The duration of my paintings also suited me, painting in one intense burst of fluid movement rather than revisiting for sustained periods in a fixed position.
BB: THE TITLES OF THE PAINTINGS ARE QUITE UNIQUE, WHAT DO THEY MEAN TO YOU?
EP: The titles come after I make the paintings, I take some time to sit with the work and to reflect on the experience of each painting. Perhaps it's useful if I talk about one title in particular; You wear a robe of cadmium. Overtime I see the colours of your verdaccio. The title of this work refers to Verdaccio- a process of underpainting flesh tones with green earth pigment before layering other less stable pigments, for instance cadmium red. Over hundreds of years the overpainting fades and the green earth pigment remains, hence the green toned faces of some medieval paintings. This colour and painting narrative intertwined with my thoughts on human relationships, how we mask ourselves and at times reveal our shadow selves.
Pictorially the painting refers to the relationship between two figures, these are a reference to my memory of a scene from the film The colour of Pomegranates, by Sergei Parajanov. This scene depicts a male figure standing, holding a red carpet in front of his body and face, turning very slowly from side to side and a female figure kneels on the floor in front and holds both the man and the carpet in an embrace as they turn, slowly the male figure reveals himself as the carpet moves aside. This visual portrayal of these two figures in the scene speaks to me of how we mask and reveal ourselves and the power dynamic of devotion in human relationships. I would not necessarily tell the story of a painting out loud as I have written it here, instead I use the titles to project what the paintings signify for me.
BB: WHAT IS YOUR ATTRACTION TO THE ROUND SHAPE AND CURVE?
EP: Curves and roundness are present in my paintings, physically they are formed by the arch of my wrist or the extension of my arms, in this sense they are inherently figurative. The round and the curve also symbolise a continuation, a cycle and an energy that is contained within but not limited to the canvas or object.
BB: EXPLAIN YOUR PROCESS OF USING COLOUR, AND WHY DO YOU MAKE THEM YOURSELF?
EP: I paint with pigments, converting these powders to paint using traditional tempera techniques, either distemper; pigment and rabbit skin glue or egg tempera; egg yolk and pigment. In the case of distemper, I work within a time frame, whilst the glue is warm and fluid. The pigments develop over time, appearing darker when wet and dry to an impasto, high density pigmented surface. I use egg tempera most frequently when I paint on plaster, a process that relates to fresco secco- the application of egg tempura to dry plaster.
I think initially in terms of colour, as I prepare the paint in advance of commencing the painting. I tear up strips of raw canvas and test pigments alongside each other in abstract circles, ovals, and rectangles. I am exploring the behaviour of the pigments, opacity of colour, weight, and colour mixing.
I have collected red earth from rockslides on the side of the road in Corsica and grey marl from the mountains in Hautes Alps, these ochres are used alongside chemically synthesised pigments. I am interested in the energetic exchange of natural and manmade pigment. If earth pigments ground us then perhaps synthesised pigments make us think of the stars, they each have their own magic.
BB: WHAT OTHER ARTIST INSPIRES YOU THE MOST?
EP: I was very sad not to cross the channel to see Jade Fadojutimi’s show ‘Jesture’ at Pippy Houldsworth gallery at the end of last year. The paintings radiate energy, colour, and experience in a way that makes me feel I really need to stand in front of them.
BB: HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE YOUR OWN PRACTICE?
EP: I liken the practice of painting to that of a shamanic journey, enacting a ritual in which I enter and exit the work. I hope to create the context in which a painting can be whole, that it contains an experience rather than narrates one and in turn offers a space of experience for the viewer.
BB: WHAT ARE YOUR LEARNINGS FROM YOUR TIME AT THE RCA?
EP: I graduated from the RCA painting course in 2019. I am still processing the time I spent there and what I learnt, I am very grateful to have met so many talented artists and become part of the wider RCA community. I was fortunate to have access to the colour reference library and participate in a material focused residency with TFAC, Colart London. My research during this time benefitted my understanding of pigment and my application of distemper painting techniques. These technical and research approaches support me now as I continue to explore making and thinking.
BB: HOW HAS STUDIO LIFE IN PARIS BEEN COMPARED TO LONDON?
EP: Following the RCA I moved to Paris and I have lived quite a secluded studio life, mainly in Paris but also in the south of France during the initial Covid lockdown. I have found being a stranger has helped me to look at art and the world around me with more autonomy and slowly I have found some kindred art spirits here. My studio in Paris for the past year has been a basement in Montmarte, passing through busy streets and disappearing below two flights of stairs into another world. Without windows, it was perhaps not my dream scenario but this white cube underground offered me a safe cocoon. I have gone back above ground now as I am taking a maternity break, so I’ll be painting from my living room four floors high with lots of windows and soon a baby!