"Creating these pieces was like a conversation with the painted fabric. There were often times the conversation included an imagined muse who laughed at my number clues and offered a critical eye."
- Emily Richardson
I think I am constantly absorbing influences: words of others, other people's energy, focus, and passion. And I'm constantly taking in visual influences - compositions of landscapes, art, movies, rooms full of people, market places. I don't intentionally set out to use any influence directly, but I often see their imprint as a piece begins to take shape.
The key for me is not knowing what the work is going to be, what it will look like. And to be open to stretching an idea or a format to unknown places. To create a visual image that has never existed, not even in my imagination.
I love to move, or be in motion - riding my bike, traveling by train, walking through the city, canoeing on a lake. And as I move, I watch, and the view shifts. Lights and darks come in and out; colors punctuate or fade. I see that changing perspective as my work evolves, and when a piece is completed - so that its appearance changes as you cross in front of it.
As I work with the paint to create the materials out of which will grow a piece, I experiment with layers, relief objects, different ways of drying the cloth. I'm never sure what will result. Always asking myself, 'What else can I try?'
The visual engagement while I'm working is tremendously rewarding. I watch a piece evolve and continually shift in its composition, focus, and tone. Each change affects the whole and calls for more changes and adjustments. Sometimes, after spending many hours and days composing a piece on the wall - pinning the pieces of painted fabric in place, I take it apart entirely to start afresh. It is then that I feel fully acquainted with the parts.
When I use an underlying grid or some kind of regular structure, I want to merge it with the expressiveness of irregular shapes or ambiguous marks of paint so that neither the grid nor the abstract imagery dominates the piece, but both work in tandem to create one visual whole.
"I want there to be ambiguity in depth, materials, and meaning. Layers of translucent silk allow for multiple ways to see what is there. What a finished piece will be isn't known to me until it is well underway."
- Emily Richardson
While painting the cloth I am reflecting on an experience or responding to something I’ve seen or been thinking about. This could be a trip, new scenery, a quandary, an exhibit, age and the passage of time. Something that fills my solitary thoughts while I mix colors and push the paint around and through the surfaces of layers of fabric.
I never know exactly how the paint will set, and as I work with these pieces of painted cloth – layering, arranging, cutting, and manipulating them, I move away from those initial thoughts, or the meaning I was trying to impart into the work, and instead am responding visually to what I see.
The subject matter is always the work itself, though it might begin with an idea or a mood. This will carry me through the painting stage, which I do first, with diluted acrylic paint, often in layers and flat on the table, sometimes using chalk to make marks and lines.
Finding the right form, dimensions, and structure occasionally happens quickly as in As We Go Away, but more often it develops through a number of sessions of pinning pieces of painted fabric onto a wall, layering it both from the top, and underneath, and watching it change and begin to become something.
I often link my work to textile traditions, especially weaving, as a way of supporting, or structuring the work, and allowing me to immerse myself in my passion for painting and composition. I am fascinated with woven cloth. At times I want to magnify the threads by weaving strips of painted fabric in pieces such as Swiftly and Spiel.
The work is informed by what has come before. A piece with more structure will often be followed by one with organic shapes. After a large piece, I'll want to do a number of small ones.