Artists We Love: Emma Nourse

INTERVIEWED BY Lindi Brownell Meiring IMAGES courtesy of Emma Nourse

Cape Town-based artist Emma Nourse, known for her beautifully layered paintings, chats to VISI about her decision to become a full-time artist, working with unusual materials and dream collaborations.

When did you know that you wanted to become an artist?

There was no defining moment for me. Since graduating from Michaelis in 2011 I had a lot of life experience to gain while being an artist, raising a pretty cool son and exploring my different creative outputs. But whenever I was working in a field that took me away from painting, I found myself being pulled back. Deciding to be an artist is scary and made me the most vulnerable I have ever been. From taking the leap two years ago to becoming a full-time artist, I have experienced the most profound joy and pride in what I do.

Your pieces are often comprised of a range of different materials, from oil on tapestry to painting with oils on silk and paper. Do you have a material/s that you most enjoy working with?

I really enjoy the physicality of those materials, playing with the different textures and relationships they may have with each other. While oil paint is fundamental to my process, I allow my imagination to explore unusual material possibilities. There is so much frustration and enjoyment that comes with a strange idea.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

I am inspired by my everyday life, which is often composed of the over-stimulation of imagery and information and, now, a very unsettling time of uncertainty. Painting has a way of focusing the mind, almost similar to the act of writing in a diary. I am able to work through different emotions, explore them and resolve them as I build the images.

What is it that you love most about layering and transparency?

There is something so tactile about thick oil paint suspended in thin silk air, the three dimensions adding complexity to the viewer. Layering adds the play of light and shadow through the piece. Again, it’s a conversation, a juxtaposition of fragility and robustness. This applies to so many aspects in our current experience or our relationship with the fragile natural environment.

When/where do you find you are at your most creative?

When I am doing, the generation of work feeds on itself. I tend to keep my hands busy at all times, whether it’s mainstream oils, sketching, needle work, or just faffing around the studio making it a happy working space.

Are there any local artists that you’d like to collaborate with?

At the moment, and for a while, I have wanted to collaborate with creatives in different industries to explore how art can become functional. I would love to do a collaboration with Pichulik. The brand’s journey has been inspiring to watch, especially how it’s evolved and grown. Another female-founded brand I am inspired by is Koeksuster. There are so many levels of thought that go into her beautifully crafted sleepwear and intimates.

Any exciting projects coming up?

I am thrilled to be taking part in Salon Ninety One’s winter group show later this year. With the lockdown, a few projects have been put on hold. One which I am very excited for is a collaboration with Louw Roets, a very talented furniture and lighting designer/maker. Lastly, I am looking forward to seeing how this unusual time will affect my work. I may run out of paper, so who knows?!

Emma is currently running weekly lockdown sales via her Instagram account, with 20% of the proceeds going towards four breadwinning women and their families. Follow @emmanourse_art to keep up to date.