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Studio Secrets

Emily Cole


Describe the things and images that you have around you in your studio and how they influence or inform your work.

I have images of paintings by other artists that represent certain painterly qualities that I admire or find inspiring in some way. For instance Neal Tait's 'Green Sledge' 2002 reminds me of the tension between abstraction and figuration as well as conjuring up a dream like quality which I love. 'May 1996' by Alex Katz is on my studio wall because I love its light touch and the ease with which this large canvas is painted. 'Margaret and Denis' 2004 by Stella Vine is propped against my window - this image reminds me of the capacity of unself-conscious painting to capture something of the truth of character - this image of Denis Thatcher makes me laugh and recoil at the same time. I have a postcard of a street scene from a location near to where I live which dates from the early 1900s and has been injected with colour or 'painted', and is 'framed' in an oval decorative frame - I spent a couple of years painting images from road trips I made and this image reminds me of that tradition of road images and how small images of particular locations have always carried an intensity and relevance for the viewer.  Recently I have started to paint using sump oil mixed with Liquin (so that it dries) as a way of representing ideas about waste products and our reliance on the machine when we are journeying through landscape or travelling in general.  An object that I often look at in my studio is a Reeve's box set of paints dating from the 1960s; it was given to me by a friend, it had belonged to her father who had painted but for some reason had never used this paint box; I was really touched when she gave it to me. This object somehow reminds me of the history of paint as a material (Reeves have been developing artist materials since the 1700s); it also reminds me of the idea of a painting lineage; how painters have always learnt from painters from the past.   

Describe your working methods and processes

I use photographs as a starting point for paintings: I take digital photos of particular locations or journeys that I make; I also use some digital images downloaded from the internet. I often crop or edit the photos and then make drawings and watercolours until I find the focus that I want. I prime a board or canvas using white primer as well as areas of acrylic florescent or coloured paint according to the colour and composition of the image which I draw onto the support before painting with oils.

Which single item in your studio is most important to your work?

An old draughtman's table where I sit to edit photographs, to draw and to start to paint many paintings.

Which artist/s most influence your work and which recent show has been inspirational?

Constable and Turner landscapes, Picasso's early landscapes, Neal Tait's 'The Burnished Ramp' at White Cube in 2003, 'Laura Owens: Paintings': at the Camden Arts Centre in 2006, Koen Van de Broek's 'Angle' at White Cube in 2007.

Is your studio a refuge or a place of torture?

On the whole it is a place of refuge as it is a space where I can think; I find that painting involves what feels like quite a unique space for ideas and thinking. The studio is a refuge when at it's best there is a stillness and time seems to become more expansive.  All those constraints and limitations from the rest of my life, eg loads of admin and increasing bureaucracy, seem to slip away.  However the studio can quickly become a place of torture if I am frustrated by only being able to snatch an hour or two of painting at a time in there, and things start to feel scrappy and I have exhibition deadlines to meet!