Flora, Fauna & Fabrications

John Emery

2 February – 6 March 2019


The painting process I use to create my work could be termed “creative fossicking”.  Like many things in NZ, I had never heard of the word before coming to Aotearoa. I first encountered the word when Christopher Moore used it to describe my work in a review of my first exhibition at COCA, and he definitely nailed my process. Fossicking is the act of rummaging or casual searching. In my case it includes memories, fragments, observations, and objects long abandon. In most cases the work will start with the painting of a single object, it is at that point that the fossicking begins.

I start by searching for connections to objects, observations or memories and usually have no idea what I’m looking to find. In the case of “Let’s Dance” it was the Pukeko’s stride and beak that some how made me think of red high heeled pumps. It was only when I was titling the work that I realize that red shoes idea came from a David Bowie song that was recorded in 1983. (Coincidentally that was the first year that I came to NZ … fossicking works in strange ways).  

I next fabricate the object from watercolour paper. This process involves cutting, scoring, folding and shaping wet watercolour paper. While the paper is still wet I paint and shape the object. (I use Arches paper because it has a high starch content, which gives the object rigidity once it has dried). This is never a precise exercise and often results in many attempts, which means I have numerous fabricated objects to use for future paintings.

Thus, the tromp l’oeil illusion of a painted object and the reality of a constructed object shift the perspective and perception of the work and force the viewer to consider the point where reality and the imagined meet. The paintings, like memories, are often not what they appear.

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