08 September 2011

Emily Gherard


Can you briefly describe what you do?

I have been painting and drawing distilled images of rocks and walls. I tend to work in a limited palette and use the physicality of materials to define the space, form and tension within the piece. 

What drives you to make work?

I always need an idea/concept/theme to begin.  The painting or drawing begins with an idea of a particular form and how it might fit in the space of the painting but as the work continues what keeps me in the piece is manipulating the materials. So I try all sorts of stuff: sanding, scraping, layering, degreasing, buffing, engraving, pouring, subtly altering the color, value, temperature or composition. I look for when the use of materials adds more information, clarity and definition to the original idea.

Can you tell me something of your day-to-day working practices?
I tend to work in a series based on the materials. So I do works on paper for a few months then work on canvas for a few months to a year. Right now I am painting so: I have about 25 paintings in a range of sizes. I work in my studio 3-4 days a week. I find that there seems to be a rhythm to my studio day. I start out organized and systematic. I begin by cleaning up from the previous work day. I lay out colors, mixing huge piles of paint. I’ll mix colors for an hour or so, this gets my eyes and thoughts warmed up. Once I am painting things fall apart.  The paintings always start off hideously. This seems to be part of it for me. By the afternoon, I am scraping and smearing paint- trying anything I can think of.  By the end of my studio day- the place is always a complete mess- left that way for the next morning. When I begin a group of canvases- I work on all of them at once. After a while, I spend more time with fewer paintings. I’ll work on a group of canvases for about 3-6 months.

How long have you been working in that way?

I have been working this way for about 5-6 years, with the exception of small changes depending on my schedule and studio. I moved into a home studio a year ago, that combine with more days off has been wonderful.

Which artists have had the greatest affect on your work?

Goya, always Goya. Piranesi’s Prisons, Fan Kaun, Brueghel the Elder, Claude Lorran’s ink drawings, Albert Pinkham Ryder, Guston, Auerbach, Kossoff, Morandi, early Georg Baselitz,
Lately: Edward Burtynsky, Abakanowicz, Julie Mehretu, Manolo Valdes particularly his sculptures, Richard Serra.

What, outside visual art, informs your practice?

I live in Seattle, and love the gray rainy weather. The coast line and dark rain forest of the Olympic Peninsula, a few hours west of me. I listen to various NPR radio programs while I paint- I don’t know their direct impact on my work but they are always there.

How would you like people to engage with your work?

Although it is always evolving, one of the core issues that I return to is how the viewer moves though the space of the painting. So I hope that those ideas come through. It is also important to me that the piece feels like it just exists- that the viewer is not made aware of the hand. 

Have you seen anything recently that has made an impression?

A friend showed me a book the other day of photographs of water towers. Half of my studio floor is covered with a thick layer of plaster and the light falling on the bright white floor is really beautiful and harsh. The Herzog’s movie Cave of Forgotten Dreams reminded me of something that I have always loved. An interview with the poet Irina Ratushinskaya about poetry and politics. The sound recordings of Tony Schwartz.

Do you have anything exciting on the horizon?

I have a show in February at Francine Seders Gallery in Seattle. I am trying to make new work while forgetting about the looming deadline. 


  1. To Emily Gherard: thank you for being so open about your process. It is always good to hear about artistic struggle ... and its overcoming. These two pieces are very powerful. And thanks, also, to the interviewer!! This felt like a true studio visit.

  2. I love the images, the process is palpable. In fact, I feel a kinship with your process (even your choice of NPR!) . Best of luck with your show.