Rosie Emerson

Rosie Emerson

Things That Inspire Me — Rosie Emerson revives a 19th Century printing technique to produce haunting, ghostlike photographs.

After Cyanotope printing was invented in the early 19th century, engineers and architects used the technique to make accurate reproductions of notes and diagrams, which came to be known as blueprints. Two centuries later, artist Rosie Emerson has resurrected the technique to create a new body of work called ‘Sirens’, now on show at London’s Hang-Up Gallery. Rosie uses life-sized negatives of female figures and combines them with found objects to create eerily beautiful, spectral photographs. Cyanotype is a wet photographic technique and Rosie uses UV light to expose the images directly onto the paper.


Rosie Emerson

I have been to Florence twice and both times I have returned to create a new series of work inspired by my trip. The latest visit inspired the collection ‘Sirens’. I visited the Uffizi and really enjoyed the storytelling, staging and drama in the Medieval art; Lorenzetti and Botticelli in particular. After seeing the unusual shaped shrine like canvases of the works, originally designed for church rather than gallery environments, I have developed circular and arch shaped Cyanotypes in response. I was influenced by the history paintings, where the figures used are models playing out different characters rather than actual portraits. Outside of the museums the grottos, decorative architecture and frescos continue to inspire me in terms of subject, technique and sheer ambition.

Like many artists and photographers, I have been drawn to silhouettes, from early paper cuts and cameos to Man Ray, Film Noir and fashion photographers such as Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Erwin Blumenfelt. I am not sure what sparked my love for silhouettes but it could have been Japanese prints. In their use of negative space, areas of fine detail and sharp graphic feel they maintain a balance of both strong & bold and fine & decorative qualities, which I try to maintain in my own work.

I am originally from Dorset, where I grew up surrounded by fields woodlands and animals. Nature was literally my playground. I made dens in woods and created stories about different trees, played in streams. This foundation of playing with and in nature has stayed with me. Although I now live in London my day starts with escaping to Hackney and Walthamstow marshes, where I walk my dog. I love seeing the seasons change through the landscape, the shapes of seeds, branches. This inspiration is particularly evident in my new Cyanotype work, where I have been foraging my art materials in the morning to use that day. It is also whilst walking when most of my ideas happen and evolve, so it’s an important creative time for me as well as a meditative one.

Angela Carter
I love her stories. It’s unsurprising perhaps that I particularly enjoy visual writers, and magical realism. Carter’s stories stand out for me. They are full of marvellous, dark, surreal and bonkers scenarios and imagery. She writes about strong, funny complex women, and we share our inspiration in nature, myth, and fairytales. One of my favourites is Nights at the Circus and I also enjoyed her series of short stories The Bloody Chamber a lot, as they both feature animal/human hybrid characters.

The Victoria & Albert Museum and my Dad
The V&A is an obvious treasure trove of incredible decorative craft. I particularly love the old guns inlaid with pearl hunting scenes, the baroque jewellery which includes animals choking up pearls; so opulent, yet weirdly dark and symbolic. This interest in antiques and decorative craft comes from my Dad. He was an antique furniture restorer and is now a cabinet maker,  so I have been privileged to grow up finding secret drawers in bureaus. Our family home is full of antiques, (mostly broken) ceramic delft ware, alongside interesting things found on the beach. He’s a maker and a magpie; in that I can see myself in him.

Rosie Emerson’s ‘Sirens’ is at London’s Hang-Up Gallery until Sunday, June 15.