The Game Changers. The Rule Breakers. The Innovators. Discover some of the fantastic emerging talent showcasing their work at The Other Art Fair.
The Other Art Fair London exhibitor Emma Lee Cracknell‘s large-scale abstract paintings describe emotions that have ‘no place within written or verbal language’. Her canvases are consumed by oil paint and various instances of drawing, giving rise to new dimensions granted by their large physicality
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Tell us about who you are and what you do. What is your background?
My name is Emma, and I grew up just outside Sudbury, Suffolk in the UK. I’ve always loved Art, and have been practicing professionally since 2014, making large scale abstract paintings. Having finished my BA Hons Fine Art in 2013, and my Masters degree in 2014 at Norwich University of the Arts, I did a short stint in London and then returned to Norwich with my partner. We’ve been here ever since. I’m really fortunate to have a studio that I use whenever I can, and to have my work in collections all over the world.
If you could describe your work in 3 words, what would they be?
Physical, Big and Emotive.
Can you walk us through your process? How do you know when an artwork is finished?
Being a painter, a large part of my creative method is driven by the practical process that I have to follow to stretch and prime a canvas. I like to start from scratch with stretchers and my trusty 15 ounce cotton duck canvas. It’s really important for me to stretch my work myself because I like to have a very specific level of tension on my canvases. I suppose this part might be surprisingly formulaic, but it has to be by its nature.
Once everything is stretched and ready to go, I find I have to be in a very specific frame of mind to make a painting. It’s a strange mix between a subconscious, almost mediative feeling, and a really high level of visual concentration. The whole thing can be quite exhausting, but thankfully I’ve been working in this way for such a long time that I instinctively know when a painting is done, so I don’t tend to burn out. The whole act of painting is very natural to me, and I hate to be this person, but it has been since the moment I picked a paintbrush up, so I am very lucky that I can concentrate more on colour and communication than formal technique.
This is where abstraction comes into play. I’m often asked if I know how a painting will look before I start it, and the answer is that most of the time, yes; I have an idea of how I’d like the paintings to come together. I work a lot in a sketchbook beforehand, so most of my work exists in another smaller form years before it’s a painting. When I’m actually working, I’m thinking physically about snippets of things that I’ve seen, often on my walk to the studio, and trying to translate that emotion into paint. There’s a little bit of something that I can’t explain, and then somehow the work comes into existence!
Has being in isolation affected your artwork practice in any way?
Obviously, this year has been traumatic and sad for many people in many ways, and one of the things that really impacted my practice personally is the cancellation of exhibitions and opportunities. I had such a fantastic year in 2019, showing at The Other Art Fair LA, and feeling that all my hard work was coming together. For 2020 to have turned out as it has, has definitely drawn on my resilience. But it’s important to put that into context and remember that other people’s struggles this year have been far more significant than my own.
The positive thing to take from this enforced slowing down of life is just that; a slower pace. Having grown up on a farm, I’ve always been connected to the natural world and have the upmost respect for it. But having the pressure of deadlines and all the hidden complexities of being a practicing artist taken away has been really grounding, and I’ve definitely gone back to a life that is more aware of and connected to nature. This has had a really positive impact on my creative work, giving it a new direction and energy.
What is the best advice given to you as an artist?
Just keep working no matter how many rejections and disappointments you get. Hard work will always pay off.
Can you tell us something about you that people would be surprised to hear?
I sometimes feel like I was born a decade too late because I love the 80s! Especially the music, everything from Ultravox to Simple Minds; the power ballads, the New Romantics, the rise of R&B. It’s my ‘go to’ decade for tunes!
Shop artwork by Emma and other trailblazing artists at The Other Art Fair’s Online Studios.
Introducing The Other Art Fair Online Studios, a new online platform offering art lovers around the world access to over 800 Fair artists. The Online Studios will keep our community feeling inspired, engaged, and continue to spread joy through art.