Copywriting : Emma Wright
In preparation for an exhibition at Waiheke Community Art Gallery in late 2011, Emma asked us to write a press release about her latest series of works. Emma was extremely excited about these new pieces and felt the need to “get down on paper” the motivations and energy behind them. An updated biography was in order too …
Image above: a close-up of one of Emma Wright’s recent works photographed by You&i.
Artist Emma Wright’s work embraces the apparent randomness of life and celebrates the beauty of ‘the big picture’. Her love of the environment, although not explicitly depicted, is in every brush-stroke. She believes “nature is the absolute basis of, and informs, everything we are.” While Wright doesn’t profess to have any of the answers, painting affords her the opportunity to ponder the larger questions and give her subconscious free reign to create.
Wright’s works begin with words – barely visible and completely illegible in the finished pieces – whatever is in her head at the time. The text might be as inane as a few lines borrowed from Dr Seuss, or as fundamental as “I am”. Layer upon layer of different materials then make their way onto the canvas; builders’ plaster, smaller pieces of canvas, house paint and translucent acrylic. Together they form luscious, abstract ridges, drips and shapes which she describes as “representing all that life throws at us; messy, inconvenient and unpredictable.”
Wright uses geometric shapes to challenge how so often we assume we know the full picture, when in fact we may know only a fraction of it. In her works, the viewer automatically ‘sees’ a full circle when what is off the canvas could actually take an infinite number of forms. We readily assume we know what makes us tick, life work and the world go around, but the reality is that life rarely goes as planned. Wright explains, “It always amazes me that I keep thinking the unpredictable will cease. My paintings are a reminder that that’s not the case.”
Significantly, this latest series of ‘New Works’ began when Wright unexpectedly (but very happily) fell pregnant with her second child. She found herself drawn to her studio where the paint flowed with an ease she hadn’t experienced for some time. She felt propelled by a new momentum and an energy which is palpable in the vibrant canvases. Their brushstrokes are strong and certain, their dripping paint is calm and meditative and their palate is joyous in its lolly-box hues. Wright has said, “I like to imagine my life dipped in sunlight, rolled in irreverence and sprinkled with hundreds and thousands. My paintings offer this view of life as a rich context for living.”
Coating each composition is a generous, almost decadent, layer of lacquer. You only have to stand in front of them to see your reflection clearly in their glossy surfaces. Yet it is only once you decide to look past yourself that you see what lies beneath.
A corporate restructure in the early ’90s saw Emma Wright facing the prospect of having to move countries to maintain the high-flying career she enjoyed. It wasn’t a prospect she savoured and forced her to question how much she really wanted to keep her career. As is so often the case, when one takes the time to truly reflect, the answer wasn’t what she expected. The truth was that she didn’t know what her vocation was and, while she gave herself the time and space to figure that out, she painted.
A significant body of work emerged and Wright held her first exhibition in Wellington. It was greeted with acclaim and her future as “one of NZ’s favourite artists” (Robinson, 2008) was decided.
Wright has since moved to Waiheke Island and had two children with her partner. Along with her unexpected (but extremely welcome) second pregnancy came a new momentum and an energy which is palpable in the vibrant canvases she produced during that period and subsequently. Their palate is joyous in its almost lolly-like colours, the brushstrokes strong and certain, while their drips and bleeding feel calm and meditative.
In their abstraction, Wright says her works “represent all that life throws at us; messy, inconvenient and unpredictable. Yet if we welcome these ups and downs they reward us in delightful ways. We become clear about who we are and, despite our circumstances, we can appreciate the roller-coaster bits of our journey. Conversely, while resisting the rough patches may make a safe life, it will make a boring one as well.”
Wright’s studio on Waiheke Island off the coast of Auckland is a popular destination for art lovers and collectors. Her works have been exhibited internationally and in galleries throughout New Zealand, and are held in numerous private collections. She was a Finalist in the 2011 Walker and Hall Art Award.