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Emma Prempeh

Interview 09.11.21

Photography and words Ellyse Anderson Styling Aartthie Mahakuperan Hair and make-up Oonah Anderson

In the first of a new series of features on young female artists, photographer Ellyse Anderson captures Emma Prempeh in her studio and talks creative spaces, inspiration and process.

Dress by Joseph 

First of all, tell us a bit about yourself and your artistic practice.

I am a painter who sometimes uses video and projection. My practice explores a culmination of my thoughts and feelings relating to an existential narrative, tackling questions that are projected upon my reality; family ties, relationships between friends, lovers and fleeting connections.

Tell us about your creative space. How does it help you create? Does it protect or insulate? Does it inform or play a central role in your process?

I make sure my creative space feels a bit like home. I like to engage intimately with my work as much of it comes from my emotional thoughts and feelings, so having a space that feels comfortable is essential. I realised over the years that my practice is more than just work, it’s an integral part of my thought process, if I feel rigid and cold in a space that is otherwise just white walls with concrete flooring it stifles my making process. There are important items I take with me when I move, like my rug and my small stool. There’s something about taking off my shoes when painting that is therapeutic. My stool allows me to protect my knees when I want to kneel and is also the perfect height to sit on when I have to get really low. Most of the figures in my paintings are life sized, so I feel like it is essential that I can get intimate with the objects and figures I create.

Dress and skirt by Palmer Harding 

Does your creative energy come from internal or external sources?

I believe my creative energy comes to me internally, recently however I realised how important it is to engage with external sources such as the people I interact with day to day. There’s power in community and this was recently reflected in my work. There is definitely joy in having other people around to bounce off. The process of engaging with other artists and seeing other artwork really inspires me to create and become less afraid to play within my practice.

Dress and cardigan by Joseph 

What art do you most identify with and who are the people that offer you inspiration to continue your process?

Art that plays with abstraction and refinement, heavy influences are Lynette Yaidom Boakye and most recently Naudline Pierre due to the dream like qualities each artist brings into their practice. My subject matter revolves around concepts that are out of my control; emotions and familial ties, both things I can’t quite put in words, so artists who play with space play an important factor in inspiring me to create.

Dress by Joseph 

The Pandemic has made visible on a large scale many of the systems of inequity that may have otherwise remained hidden. One is access to spaces (institutional, cultural, political, etc.). How has your experience with space in the Art industry changed over the past two years?

The pandemic was really isolating, I had this idea that in the future I’d be completely comfortable making art on my own, going from the studio to home, however I realised how daunting it was especially when we were not able to really interact. Within the past two years however I have been very lucky to have had a space to work in as well as opportunities to exhibit my work in and out of the UK. Not all artists have had the same opportunities and access as I do. It is still very important to talk about these issues regarding the lack of space, generally and within artistic institutions. The pandemic has really put forward the discrepancies that need to be taken care of around the world including deception, discrimination and ableism and I have recently experienced that first hand. I think that everyone can make an impact if you use your voice even if only in small ways.

Dress and skirt by Palmer Harding 

How do you navigate these changing conditions in the Art world as a woman?

Definitely through community and the support of other women. I grew my practice around words of encouragement mostly from women. I think it is important for younger generations to have artists they can look toward as a reference point, not being afraid to ask questions and most importantly, taking care and time to rest.

What is next for you? Any upcoming projects or exhibitions we should keep an eye on?

Right now I am focusing on developing my practice within my masters course but I have some very exciting projects ahead in 2022 as well as various group exhibitions so please look forward to seeing what I hope are much more refined and experimental artwork.

Photography and words Ellyse Anderson Styling Aartthie Mahakuperan Hair and make-up Oonah Anderson
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