PCA Member Q&A: Emma Stoneman

Spinal Structure in Transformation [L2 + L3], 2015, archival inkjet print on cotton rag paper, 38.5 x 27cm (image size) 48.5 x 33cm (paper size). This print was selected for the 2015 PCA Print Commission. It is available to purchase through the PCA store.

‘I enjoy the meditation of exploring issues, ideas and concepts through a visual language, along with the challenges and restrictions posed by materials and the technical aspects of production that present themselves throughout the process.’ 

Emma Stoneman lives in Victoria

Why do you make art?

It seems so natural and ‘right’ to make art that I don’t really question what motivates me in my art practice. But for the most part, making art is a way of processing life and the world in a quiet and (wonderfully) solitary space – it represents time out of the ‘real’ world. I enjoy the meditation of exploring issues, ideas and concepts through a visual language, along with the challenges and restrictions posed by materials and the technical aspects of production that present themselves throughout the process.

What’s your relationship to printmaking?

While my original interest and arts practice was founded in traditional methods of printmaking, I have worked with digitally produced prints since the mid 1990’s. My current practice is anchored by photography with images undergoing extensive digital editing and reworking to the point of abstraction. Even working digitally I approach the work with a very process driven methodology and production is print based.

How did you get interested in printmaking?

I was first exposed to printmaking by an art teacher in the middle years of secondary school, and was immediately drawn to the process-driven nature of producing prints. Beginning with linocuts and collagraphs, I was totally hooked after doing a zinc plate etching in Year 10. After secondary school I went straight to university to study art and there was no question what studio to major in – it was printmaking all the way!

Who is your favourite artist?

My favourite art movements are Bauhaus and De Stijl, of which I could single out any one of the myriad artists, architects and artisans that produced such exceptional and ground breaking work during this period. And while I find many of those artists inspiring and among my favourites, my ultimate choice comes from a different time and genre completely.

Bernd and Hilla Becher have long been a source of interest and influence through their collaborative lifetime project of documenting industrial landscapes and the built environment. Their methodology, systematic approach, aesthetic, concept and resultant body of work with their trademark precision, composition and gridded groupings of beautiful images is admirable. Plus touring around Europe and North America in a Volkswagen Kombi Transporter van photographing factories, processing plants, blast furnaces, gasometers, silos, etc., has great romantic appeal to me!

What is your favourite artwork?

It is hard to pinpoint just one favourite artwork as the list of ‘favourites’ keeps developing and expanding over time. However, there are a few constants that are worthy of selection. Jessie Traill’s Building the Harbour Bridge series of etchings inspired me early in my printmaking studies and continues to resonate with me today on many levels. Roy Lichtenstein’s Preparedness is also a long-term favourite from my art school days. Robert Jacks‘s Metropolis series of paintings has been a more recent discovery for me, but one that has had a big impact.

But if I really had to name an outright favourite it would be the Schröder House designed by Gerrit Rietveld. Possibly an unusual choice for favourite artwork, but for me it encapsulates all that I love in art, architecture and design.

Where do you go for inspiration?

Often I turn to art, architecture and design books, galleries and museums for inspiration and motivation. But looking at the built environment, such as architectural, industrial and civil engineering projects through the viewfinder of my camera is when I feel most inspired.

What are you working on now?

I have a series of images underway using harbour cranes as the basis for a set of abstract compositions. This follows on from a series of prints that was completed last year based on the Erasmus Bridge. Both series of works utilise photographs captured on a ‘field trip’ around the Port of Rotterdam, Netherlands. These works form part of an ongoing investigation into the metaphoric comparisons between the built form and the human body. The crane and bridge images are a vehicle to explore and study the role of resistance, force and movement required for the human skeletal system to develop and sustain bone density.

I currently have a print included in the Thinking of Place exhibition which has toured to various venues in Australia and New Zealand. Its last showing is in my home town at the Post Office Gallery, Ballarat, from the 6 April to 21 May 2016.