Author: Alicia Muir

Rosie Emerson: The Interview

Rosie Emerson is a multidisciplinary printmaker working almost exclusively on representing the female form, elevating her subjects to a goddess-like status. Inspired by her love of theatre, performance, shrines, and rituals, Rosie uses dramatic lighting, hand-made costumes, set, and prop making, alongside printmaking and painting, to create works that play between the familiar and the otherworldly. We had the joy of sitting down and speaking with Rosie about her newest releases, her inspiration and love for all things decorative, and her diverse artistic practice. 

 Rosie Emerson: The Interview | Image

AR: We are so excited to hear about your latest releases - Terrarium & Façade – can you tell us a bit about them?

I started making sets in lockdown. I couldn't do my usual photo shoots at home. It was nice to return to working with more vintage found photography - I did Ava Gardner and Greta Garbo and then I thought, let's make some sets in miniature and it was a really nice process. I just worked with some images from existing photo shoots at the time. For my recent works, I did two photo shoots with the models that are in them.

The sets start off as wine boxes, which I upgraded to from cardboard boxes because they are a bit sturdier. They're all built and painted in the studio and then the model is photographed. In one of them, I've used the checkerboard floor that comes with Doll's House flooring to skew the perspective of scale. I had some help from my dad, he cut my etching plates so that's why they've got the different shapes at the top, they're all metal plates cut by hand.

Rosie Emerson: The Interview | Image

Facade by Rosie Emerson 

Rosie Emerson: The Interview | Image

Where did you find the performers?

They're both local performers. One’s a hooper that roller skates - the light trails that you can see in Façade are because she's got LED hula hoops. So I did some long exposure shots. The other one is a Brighton-based aerial performer.

Do you take all the photographs you use in your work?

Yeah, I started off working with existing photographs, then I started working with photographers and sort of art directing my own shoots and had some people making costumes and doing hair and makeup and I kind of ended up just making the tea, I was a bit of a spare part, so I gradually taught myself photography, and now I do it. It’s more intimate when it's just me and the model, you can work it out between you, and it also allows for more experimentation on the day. It just takes good confidence and time - that’s often when the best stuff comes. So I'll have an image of what I'm going for, but it’s flexible on the day.

Rosie Emerson: The Interview | Image

Terrarium by Rosie Emerson

Rosie Emerson: The Interview | Image

You’ve worked in a range of mediums and techniques and with unusual materials – do you have a preference?

I'm always interested in the newest technique, where my energy and my mind are, but I have definitely been returning to cyanotypes - they're so great to work with and you get to make them outside as well.

Rosie Emerson: The Interview | Image

Callisto by Rosie Emerson

Rosie Emerson: The Interview | Image

Can you tell us a bit more about your cyanotype process?

The negatives which are created are kind of real-size printed out onto acetate. So there are enormous negatives and then I combine those with real objects to create more negatives. The paper is painted with a light-sensitive emulsion, which I mix in the dark and then I paint them under the cover of darkness and then store them overnight and then expose them. They are all activated by UV light - then they're exposed, and you fix them by rinsing them with water.

You broke a photography world record in 2014 with your 46.81 square metre cyanotype – can you tell us about this?

It was one of the hardest things I've ever done in terms of logistics because it was so much fabric! I had to do it at night and then sew them all together again at night, which was really difficult at the time, as my studio had massive skylights. So I had between 11pm and 5am to get everything coated. I laid it all out the night before and did the exposure with all the objects on top - huge lengths of willow and chandeliers and different things going on, I got three figures to dive in at the last minute for silhouettes.

Rosie Emerson: The Interview | Image

Detail of Facade

Are cyanotypes always blue?

Yes - always blue. You can tone them with wine, tea and coffee. I'd like to experiment with that a bit more. But so far, I've done blue ones.

There's definitely a vintage aesthetic in your work - is there a particular time period that you are interested in or inspired by?

Yes, definitely, a more modern kind of history and aesthetic, like 1940s photography, Hollywood studio shots, and lighting. And then looking further back to Pre-Raphaelite costumes and medieval influences, trips to Florence and the architecture, The Victoria and Albert Museum, and all things elaborate and over the top. These influences filtered into my new theatre set pieces.

Rosie Emerson: The Interview | Image

How has your work changed over the years?

I’m a materials-driven artist, so I think with my changing of techniques, I bring what I learned from the last thing to the new thing. So I've come to printmaking and photography from quite a sideways perspective and a collage painterly background. What I loved about the designs was the silhouettes, which I was able to present with my etching. My first pieces were collages from fashion magazines and they had some very elongated ladies -  they were a little bit more subversive and I fly-posted them so people wondered if they were actual adverts or not.

Your newest works were made from a whole range of materials – do you have a collection on hand ready to use?

I have bits and bobs that come in handy. My dad was a furniture restorer, and now he's a cabinet maker, so he's just gifted me a big collection of things that he's hoarded over the years of restoring antique furniture, lots of door handles with pretty bits of brass that's all at my disposal. In Terrarium there are sweet corn husks, discarded seeds and the netting that you get with oranges - if you look carefully, it’s full of so much detail.

Rosie Emerson: The Interview | Image

Detail of Terrarium

Could you talk us through a typical day, or are they all always different?

I don't think there is such a thing, it depends on what I'm working on. My print studios are over in Brighton and they're my favourite days because they're all about the kind of finale of things because it's the actual reveal. Those days everything's very analogue. So, there's no screen, no emails. There's just me and my hands making things. Otherwise, I am working on the computer, hand-finishing, watercolouring or gold leafing editions, or doing research and development.

Does being by the sea influence your works?

I've used a few elements taken from low tide - you get these amazing kinds of lunarscapes, as well as the ripples, and the way the light hits it. So I've used a couple of pictures of the sea in my work but in more of non-coastal art way.

Is there an artwork you are most proud of?

I'd say, probably the world record, just because it was the most challenging and it worked. I think I just discovered it existed, and that it happens. Maybe four years before, by French artists for a project, and I got really excited seeing the effect that big. I did it as part of the Wicked Arts Festival in front of a live audience which again was quite out of my comfort zone to do it with everyone watching.

Have you been to any interesting cultural events recently?

I did go and see The Kit Kat Club cabaret and Giffords Circus, which were both amazing.

Rosie Emerson: The Interview | Image

Detail of Terrarium

What draws you to representing women in your art?

I feel quite qualified to present as a woman and as a feminist, but I think when it's a delicate dance, we're walking the line with beautiful artwork, and I think beauty is always had a strange relationship with the art world and my work is unapologetically feminine as well. It's a space in which I feel very comfortable, but also, I'm aware that it's a fine line because the bits that I'm interested in are surface of things and façade, which is the name of one of the pieces. It's not the nitty-gritty of real life, it's all fantasy which is an interesting space to work in, as that's also the space things like advertising occupy.

Rosie Emerson: The Interview | Image

The Planet Who Believed I by Rosie Emerson

Rosie Emerson: The Interview | Image

Is there a message that you are expressing with your work?

I don’t see my work as that prescriptive. I think would like to think that art is more like my first language and talking is definitely my second language, I guess There's more poetry to it than that. I was always happiest making and it was really encouraged. When I got to university, I realised there was so many dyslexic people around me and thought we just think differently which is a visual thing.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on some pieces with gold leaf background and then screening on top, which is an exciting progression for me. A couple of years ago, I woke up one morning and my computer screen had gone totally inverted. The first thing that came up was my website and I saw all my pictures of my cyanotypes in reverse. So before I fixed it I took a few screenshots and thought I could work with it, and so I'm just coming back to that idea, turning my blues to gold colour and my whites black.

Rosie Emerson: The Interview | Image

Detail of Facade

I imagine that must take a long time to complete some of your works – a real labour of love.

Yeah, totally - so many different processes and stages to the work. So, it's exciting when they come to fruition.

Your latest pieces, Terrarium & Façade, are hand-finished, which is such a special touch. What informed your decision to go the extra mile and hand-finish them?

When I'm making the sets, even though I know they're going to be photographed in black and white, I can't help myself from working in a harmonious colour scheme with things. So sometimes colour within the sets I'll want to kind of bring that back in at the end. So they're printed in either black and white or slightly sepia and then I add the watercolour or a bit of bronze powders, which are actually gold, to add a little bit of sparkle. They're not big editions, only 10 of each, so I can hand-finish, any more and it wouldn’t be possible.

Head to Rosie's collection to discover her magical artworks and keep up to date with all her latest releases. 

NEW RELEASES

Wobbly by Erwin Wurm
Rare
Wobbly £7,650
Ivy Mike by Robert Longo
Rare
Ivy Mike £14,280

Robert Longo

null

Limited edition of 15

Forest of Doxa by Robert Longo
Rare
Balloon Animals I Matching Set by Jeff Koons
Rare
Balloon Animals I Matching Set £45,900

Jeff Koons

null

Limited edition of 999

Diamond (Blue) by Jeff Koons
Rare
Rare
"Coca Cola" Glass Vase £4,250

Ai Weiwei

null

Limited edition of 300

Mel Ferrer's Nightmare (Grey With Flowers) by Pure Evil
Rare
Mel Ferrer's Nightmare (Grey With Flowers) £1,500

Pure Evil

null

Limited edition of AP

The Wild Swim from £120

Oli Mumby

Various sizes

Off You Pop by Louise Nordh
Exclusive
Off You Pop £95

Louise Nordh

35 x 35cm

Limited edition of 30

Moving Forms by Mr Penfold
Exclusive
Moving Forms £165

Mr Penfold

26 x 30cm

Limited edition of 15

Inside Mickey's Heart from £150

Angel London

Various sizes

Navy Boy £175

Charlie Evaristo-Boyce

50 x 70cm

Limited edition of 25

I Will Bite from £135

Mathilda Mai

Various sizes

Italian Summer by SODA
Exclusive
Italian Summer £125

SODA

42 x 29.7cm

Limited edition of 40

Let's Get It On £595

Linda Charles

56 x 76cm

Limited edition of 45

Wash the Blues Away by Charlie Haydn Taylor
Exclusive
Wash the Blues Away from £150

Charlie Haydn Taylor

Various sizes

Inhale £175

Joe Webb

50 x 70cm

Limited edition of 30

Roarsome - Green by And Wot
Exclusive
Roarsome - Green £195

And Wot

50 x 70cm

Limited edition of 2

Fresh £200

Hannah Adamaszek

60 x 75.5cm

Limited edition of 15

Destroy the Patriarchy Not the Planet (Mini) £400

Hannah Shillito

27.9 x 21cm

Limited edition of 20

Scratchin' Cats (Blue) £150

The Cameron Twins

33 x 36cm

Limited edition of 20

Fast Dog £95

Gavin Dobson

50 x 70cm

Limited edition of 100

In The Sky With Stars £195

Charlie Evaristo-Boyce

70 x 100cm

Limited edition of 16

Gamebuoy by Nick Chaffe
Exclusive
Gamebuoy £100

Nick Chaffe

29.7 x 42cm

Limited edition of 50

Seascape W £300

Newton Blades

50 x 30cm

Limited edition of 100