A wonderful little chat with artist Emma Gale
Let’s step back a little while, to your beginnings as an artist, were you born into an artistic family, did you sit on the sidelines while the other kids played team sports, or did you do both?
I have always been creative … always creating always drawing… no, my family wasn’t creative, it was only me – not sure where that came from? I did play sport but was definitely the creative type. All I wanted to do was be an artist and live a bohemian life! I didn’t finish my last school year and decided to go to art school instead. I also did a textile design course for 1 year, then I took a one way ticket to Cairo Egypt as a friend had asked me to come over there to start an art program with Sudanese refugees – I didn’t think twice and went! I spent the next 2 years in Cairo and loved it. As I knew how to print fabric, the program taught refugees how to screen print and then we made items and created a store. It was a fantastic experience and I met some wonderful people and traveled around that amazing country. The experience was challenging but also very rewarding. I loved every minute!
Most of the artists I know spend the majority of the traditional sleeping hours awake, and the awake hours asleep, but you can’t do that, not with all that you have happening outside the studio, tell us about the balance and how you manage it.
No i can’t do that!!!! I like to paint in the daylight anyway and with a family and a household I have to be able to work during the day and be available after school etc. Weekends I do work and having my studio at home means I can escape anytime! It’s always hard for creative mums, there can be deadlines, and artwork always takes longer than you think and then something happens in your home life or with kids and everything gets shuffled about. I guess I manage it by leaving myself more time and not taking on a huge workload as I don’t like the stress – and stress doesn’t like me! It’s just not worth it for everyone! So yes I have learned to be more realistic about time and what I can actually take on.
Your husband Gary and yourself have a wonderful business called Byron Bay Macadamia Muesli, are muesli thoughts starting to overtake studio thoughts, or are you able to compartmentalise somehow?
Well Gary is the head honcho over at muesli HQ, I am in the background, the creative input and also testing and eating lots!!!! I love food and the products we make – ok totally biased here!!! – but they are pretty damn good so its not hard to be engaged in the process and the marketing. My art takes up most of my time and the rest is muesli and kids.
You’ve obviously spent countless hours nurturing your artistic practise, tell us a little bit about your beautiful style and process.
Painting is my love. My background is more in drawing but once I started painting I found that I could really explore the process with paint and the large scale canvas is what I like. My style is quite messy really! It’s naive but quite rough. I use layers of paint, I work in acrylic paint so the drying process is fast. I love colour, I see in colours and I look at images for their colours. Colour is exciting and it excites me… I also hand build ceramics. It’s the sculptural side for me. It’s really grounding and is a wonderful process. I am influenced by tribal shapes and vessels from all different cultures. I like taking the earthy raw clay and seeing where it takes me! Each piece I do is unique and different, and it’s all small batch pieces.
Your current period of work has a specific style, obviously African, South American, forgive me for not knowing my geography here, I should have listened at school or done some more travel… can you talk us through this work.
I have always had a love of Africa and tribes and cultures, and places in general. I went to Africa when I was 15. I fell in love. I used to spend all my pocket money buying artefacts and books. Different countries and their cultures and day-to-day lives excited me. The simple things in life, the daily routines of people, the local way of life, the local colours and local foods. I like to see places that are off the beaten track, the small and interesting where the locals gather.
We’ve seen photos of your studio and it looks like you’re pretty settled in there, how long have you had a fully functioning space?
The space is about 4 years old. We converted our double garage space which has been so great. Lots of natural light, it’s not huge but it’s really convenient for me to be working from home. I think as a creative mum being at home means some days you can multi task with home and art. I am so fortunate that I have a space of my own.
Are you working on a new exhibition at present, or are you busy keeping up with commissions?
I am part of a group show in Melbourne in August so I am finishing that at the moment, then just more painting and also working on new ceramics. I am off to Ethiopia in October, which I am so excited about. I am going with an NGO called Create Impact. They build schools and health centres in Ethiopia. They raise money through art and a group of artists and creatives are going together. The trip is to raise money for their projects in Ethiopia. We will sell our art and all proceeds go to keeping the projects going and building new ones. My new resolution is to travel to a new place every year.
Where to from here, more of the same, or are you about to shoot off and get into digital animations or something really random?
Hahaha, no digital animation for me! Just more painting and more ceramics and hopefully more much travel! There are so many places on my bucket list!
Before you go, can you step us through a typical day off in Byron, what that looks like for you, assuming the weather is perfect of course.
Well we have breakfast covered, it’ll be muesli of course!!! I am addicted to our Paleo Granola – it’s my fave!!! If it’s a tropical and balmy day I will head to the ocean, then a nice walk on the beach, then catching up with friends for a coffee, then maybe a relaxing rest of the day, ending in a gin and tonic or two!
Emma’s beautiful work can be seen throughout the spaces that make up The Atlantic Byron Bay, you can connect with Emma via her Instagram here: @emmagale_artist or you can jump online right here: emmagale.com.au