Former Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year contestant Emma-Leone Palmer explores the complexity of the human mind in her hypnotic original oil paintings.
After graduating with a fine art degree in 2005, Emma moved to Umbria in Italy, where her love of figurative painting blossomed at a studio once used by the High Renaissance painter Raphael. She went on to hold a solo exhibition of 38 portraits at the Watts Gallery and appear as a contestant on Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year, where she painted the film star Richard E. Grant. Her work is also owned by the British Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies.
Spiralling across each of the large-scale paintings from her Afterglow collection is a seemingly chaotic entanglement of neon wires. Allegorising not only the complexity of our thoughts but the digital information we receive and process on a daily basis, these bursts of light illuminate the female subjects whilst deepening the darkness they inhabit. The scale is deliberately larger than life to impose and make us confront the feelings of the women.
Emma says: “On reflection, I’ve been painting little parts of myself – trying to work it out in a whirlwind that’s been spinning me hard. This is where I am most me, where I thrive and where I feel most alive. Everything else feels like white noise.”
To create her hypnotic pieces, Emma allows her subjects to interact organically with pliable lighting strips and neon wires and takes hundreds of reference photographs before starting to paint. Using colours similar to infrared photography, the Surrey-based artist captures the futuristic otherness of the body by exploring each subject’s intimate connection with energy.
She is moved by a compulsive urge to create and the challenge of capturing an emotion. For Emma, painting is as innate as breathing. She loves the feeling of oil paint between her fingers and the way the colours move and blend.
Emma says: “I paint what I connect with, or what has me questioning...an allure, the way the light dances and caresses certain areas. I paint faces, although I like to say I paint expressions…not just what is on the aesthetic surface, but what is underneath. It’s the internal dialogue versus the external portrayal. The painting is only done when it starts talking back to me, like it has become more than me.”
Watch Emma at work here.
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