We caught up with Rosie Emerson to discuss her work style, inclusion of unusual materials, and what’s next!
AR: When did you realise you wanted to become an artist?
Rosie: I’ve never stopped making art since I was a child. Art has always felt like my native tongue. Being dyslexic, I struggled a bit at school, but art was always my strength and solace. I had other jobs in my early career, but I feel incredibly lucky to make a living from doing it now.
AR: Is there any particular artwork or artist that has changed the way you view creative expression?
Rosie: My grandmother Keyna Emerson, who died this year at 97, was an abstract painter. I think the fact that she was an artist made it seem possible for me to be one too.
AR: What did it feel like when you sold your first artwork?
Rosie: It felt amazing! I sold it from a self-made gallery I set up with my friend Vanessa after we graduated. It was above a gun shop, so we named it the Shotgun Gallery! The artwork was an original long tall collage/painted lady for £220 and the sale made me feel like ‘real’ artist.
AR: Your primary subject is the female form, could you speak more on the significance of this representation?
Rosie: I have always represented women as elevated, beyond the everyday. I like to portray women as strong, goddess-like icons. I draw from influences of mythology, art history, cinema and fashion editorials. There is a paradox with the work I make, they are not portraits of real women with obvious real lived experience, but instead a façade, a seductive veneer; a beautiful and dangerous fantasy.
AR: The pandemic-induced lockdowns disrupted the routine of many artists. How did your routine alter, and what does a typical day look like for you now?
Rosie: I wasn’t able to complete new photo shoots during the initial lockdown, so this gave me an opportunity to revisit the archives of the silver screen, working with Ava Gardner and Greta Garbo. I also have kids so it wasn’t easy to make artwork. Now my days are structured around the school and nursery drop offs, so I’m pretty organised even though my brain is naturally not. I have a timetable of works to be completed, but new inspirations are always filtering in, so I keep a sketchbook nearby.
AR: What was the driving force behind your art?
Rosie: I guess I’m just a thrill seeker. I always have a rough idea of what I want to achieve with a print, but printmaking for me is all about the reveal. Since a lot of my unique editions are hand painted, the reveal is different every time. The process makes them fun to print, and these creations surprise me, by giving me a real buzz, and when it's going well it’s the biggest high!
AR: Could you describe your studio or workspace?
Rosie: I work from home, where I have a studio where I make my little theatre sets and hand paint all my backgrounds. It's full of stuff; I’m a hoarder of books, beads, dried flowers and props. This space doubles as my photographic studio for photo shoots with my models. When It comes to printing, I print all my work by hand, using two print studios in Brighton: either Ink Spot Press where I go to complete my Screen prints or Volcanic Editions where I create my photopolymer etchings. Cyanotypes are created either with a UV light exposure unit at the print studio or, most of the time, in my garden using the sun to expose them.
AR: You often work with unusual materials such as charcoal powder or ash, what is the motivation behind these choices?
Rosie: I love screen print, but I wanted to soften its graphic look, so I developed a technique using powders. I started with sawdust, then moved into ash, charcoal powder and bronze powders. Adding powders takes the photographs into a more painterly aesthetic. These materials are pretty unpredictable to work with sometimes, and I end up looking like a coal miner some days, but I love the smudgy and unique softness that I can achieve with the prints. I’ve also started to work with glitter and diamond dust.
AR: Where do you see your art going in the future?
Rosie: I’ve always enjoyed muted tones and a fairly monochromatic palette, but I’m getting bolder. I’ve started using collage and more colours, so watch this space!
AR: If you could give one tip for new art collectors, what would it be?
Rosie: Buy what you love, if it goes up in value - great, but if you have art you love in your collection, you have already won.
Edits have been made for clarity and conciseness.