Emma Creasey has always been imaginative, but throughout her childhood, her creativity expressed itself in different ways. She can’t remember the first time she picked up a paintbrush, but she can remember forever writing stories, poems and drawing.
‘As I got older I started to develop a deeper appreciation for film, music, books and art,’ she says. ‘I really loved paying attention to certain song lyrics, or letting myself get lost in a book, so I think in the back of my mind I had this constant desire to create something myself, to explore my own ideas.’
A desire to envelope herself in these imaginary worlds filled with characters, complexity and nuance energises her painting now, and propels her practice forwards.
Each of Emma’s canvases sees weird, uncanny and intriguing scenes realised in distinct brushstrokes and inviting colour palettes. She invents entire narratives while she works, intuitively punctuating scenes with stray items of clothing, strange delicacies and out-of-place objects. If you look long enough and hard enough, new pockets of weirdness unfold themselves.
Hello Em! Let’s get straight into it. What brought you to painting and How did you learn your craft?
I started working full time straight out of high school and didn’t go to uni. I learnt through practice, mostly feeling my way through and paying attention to what did and didn’t work. It was difficult when my ideas weren’t translating, but then I would have these shifts where something would work, and that would motivate me to keep going.
What’s your typical subject matter?
For a while now the subject matter has been food, however recently it has become more about entire scenes, and women have started to enter the paintings.
A theme I have been exploring is the potential for multiple realities to exist, for example creating scenes that could seem pleasurable but at a closer glance appear more sinister, or scenes that blend elements of interior and outdoor space together. For me this mirrors life and the way people can experience different versions of themselves or each other, or have different perspectives on a shared experience.
Your paintings are so loaded with texture and scenery. What’s your relationship to storytelling and narrative?
With my earlier work I was really interested in how I could influence the mood of the painting, how a certain tonality or the placement of a dish of food could allude to this feeling of anticipation, or loneliness or romance. I think that’s where my relationship to storytelling started to come in, and now I spend a lot more time thinking about the worlds I’m creating within each painting. I enjoy thinking about the characters and the scene as something that really exists, almost like a film on pause, which allows for a narrative around what might be happening if someone pressed play.
I also read a lot, and I know that influences my paintings. One of my favourite writers is Ottessa Moshfegh, when I read her books the details play out very visually for me. In a way painting feels like reading in reverse, the visual image starts to unfold and then the story follows.
Do you have any key references or inspirations?
Chloe Wise is a big source of inspiration for me. Visually I am very drawn to her work, she is like a marker in the far, far distance of the kind of skill level I hope to have one day. I love her colour choices, the way she captures food and the expressions of her subjects, the dark humour and political undertones behind her work.
I saw the Salvador Dali ‘Honey is Sweeter than Blood’ painting for the first time a couple of months ago and that has also played a part in the direction my work is now going. Because my paintings are imagination-based and I don’t use image references something really clicked when I saw that, it felt like a little nudge to say hey your work doesn’t have to be tethered to reality, it doesn’t have to make sense.
Tell us about your upcoming ‘Between Painters’ collaboration.
The exhibition is between a group of female identifying and non binary artists across Australia, curated by the amazing Charlotte Alldis. I’ve been paired up with Ileigh Hellier, a Newcastle based painter who creates really incredible work. We have planned out our concepts together over the phone and via email. As we aren’t based in the same state we have decided to create two large paintings for the exhibition, each of us starting one, then having that couriered to the other for completion.
I think it will be a challenge to let a work go half finished, and even more of a challenge to receive a half complete work, that’s such a big lesson in trust, but I’m really excited to see how it all comes together. IIeigh and I will aim to start each work at the same time so we can connect during the process of painting as well.
What does art-making mean to you, and what do you hope to communicate?
Art-making is a way to express my imagination. The process of making art is like opening up a dialogue between one part of myself to another. The part of me that takes action, or exists to make logical decisions, can better connect to the part of me that receives inspiration for ideas or acts intuitively.
I’m really not sure what I hope to communicate with my work, I’m not sure that I specifically want to communicate anything. I guess at the very least I just want to share my ideas, and if someone is viewing my work and considering the story, is considering that there could be more to it than meets the eye, then I don’t think I could ask for more than that.