“I is a verb masquerading as a noun”–Julian Baggini, quoted by Grayson Perry. Here’s a short post about the English artist’s exhibition–and riffs on the idea of a portrait–at the National Portrait Gallery in 2015.
On a recent trip to London, I visited Grayson Perry’s latest exhibition,Who Are You? In this showing of fourteen portraits, Perry captures and conveys his subjects’ identities, giving a snapshot of their lives rather that merely depicting their appearances.
I have always loved Perry’s handling and use of traditional media – his trademark tapestries and classical ceramic vases whose Grecian forms he embellishes with friezes of scenes from modern-day life. Who Are You?does not disappoint in this respect. The rooms of the National Portrait Gallery are peppered with Perry’s quilts, maps, ceramics, paintings, and a large printed silk scarf – The Ashford Hijab, a colourfully illustrated piece representing the identity of a young British woman who chose to convert to Islam. Perry’s choice of subjects is wide and varied, depicting 21st century British society in all its glory: the deaf community, the Jesus Army, a young…
Mira Tudor: Hi Emily, I discovered your paintings in your online gallery at http://www.emilymagone.com and was quite taken with the effects you seem to get with acrylics, as in the Misted Trees One, which has a “misty” push and pull redolent of the iridescence of silk. It also has neutral tones reminiscent of Asian art. What Asian artists, and artists in general, have been important on your journey?
Emily Magone: This is a beautiful question, and something I hadn’t realized until you asked! Being self-taught and growing up in an isolated town, I didn’t have much exposure to the arts (much to my dramatic teenage chagrin). My college degrees are unrelated as well, so my knowledge of art history is rather basic. The most influential artist on my journey remains my high school art teacher, Dave Studebaker–who specialized in Western- and Native American-themed landscapes and scenes–and taught perfect rendering. The world lost him far too early and I have immense gratitude for the safe space and influence his classroom provided during those years.
I have great appreciation for the delicate and peaceful style of Asian art, and I’ve done quite a bit of painting on silk over the past few years as an exploratory medium–which has perhaps influenced my work on other surfaces. But the richness of acrylic on canvas will always have my heart. 🙂
MT: You seem to have spent quite a lot of time with trees, mist, and the sea (or ocean). Why these elements? What do you associate them most with in terms of your inner life? And what are the places that you go back to in your memory when you paint these scenes?
EM: I have indeed! I was born and raised in the northwest corner of Montana with frequent trips to the Washington coast. The trees and mist are elements that bring me the most peace and calm. The floating silence of the fog as it settles between the trees–I can go there in my mind in an instant and feel the cool mist on my face and hear the sounds of the earth minus humans.
These feelings are what I want to bring to others as well: the calm and serenity. It’s so important to maintain our connection with nature on a daily basis. It is healing in so many ways.
My childhood memories of full days spent in the woods on my bike building forts, eating honeysuckle, mushroom hunting, catching giant frogs in the creek and collecting gorgeous rocks are what fuels my woodland paintings. And I am forever returning to the Pacific Northwest in my mind. The Olympic Peninsula and the Washington coast in particular. Glacier Park, and in recent years, the Norwegian Fjords and the Croatian coast.
One of my next goals is to get some first-hand exposure to the Northern Lights to fuel a full Aurora collection of work!
MT: Thank you, Emily, for this interview. Happy journeys!