Artist Interview: Emily Moore

I came across the work of London-based artist Emily Moore in two different places between last summer and the year that followed; the first was in the slightly bizarre online presentations on the Royal College of Art website, where Emily graduated from in the unfortunate year of 2020. However it was my second engagement with her work, discovering the piece 'Chained' in Lisson Gallery's recent exhibition 'An Infinity of Traces', which closed earlier in June. Aesthetically, the piece is stunning and striking; it was curated brilliantly, with nothing to encroach on its space, taking centre stage against a vast, bright white wall. The show was a collection of pieces by Black artists working with themes including race, history, being and belonging. Lisson also had an online programme of events, and I really recommend catching up on them, especially 'Black Women as Voice and Presence in Visual Art', a panel discussion that included Emily. After being completely engrossed by 'Chained', I decided to strike up a conversation with the artist about her work and processes.

Emily Moore, Chained, 2020. Dimensions variable. Image courtesy of the artist. 

You graduated from Royal College of Art last year. How would you describe the experience of studying there?

The RCA gave me space and time to think through my practice. There was a richness that I personally gained whilst I was there through my relationships with the tutors and some peers. It was the conversations that happened within these spaces that gave me the confidence to articulate my practice, and the ideas I had always had inside of me. They were able to develop and manifest in the ways that you see now in my practice. I even defined my own term ‘wildness’ in contemporary painting whilst I was studying there. All of this was during the first year and first term of second year, before the world went into lockdown.

I love that ‘Chained’, the piece you exhibited at Lisson Gallery, was made with your mother. You used the phrase “CRAFT-WOMANSHIP” in explaining the work. Do you feel a gendered affinity between the work and the way it has been made?

There is a conversation that is constantly building momentum but has never really been addressed enough for us to see real change, and that is women artists. We are still seeing women artists gaining recognition very late. 

Yes I do feel this affinity; I have worked with my Mum before on a piece I showed during my BA degree show called 'red, yellow and blue'. There is a passing on of information and knowledge that happens within a mother and child dynamic that goes on unsaid and sometimes in an informal way; I felt this was really important to highlight. 

I have worked with my Dad before and he also had lots of wisdom and knowledge to share but he himself has stated that the magic he witnessed between the work that was created by his wife and myself as his daughter was a spiritual connection, something that he felt only a mother and child could manifest, which I found really powerful.

Emily Moore, PERFECT LOVERS, 2021. Hand-woven wool, mixed media mesh and copper nails, 80cm x 110cm. Image courtesy of Fold Gallery.

It’s really fascinating, but also understandable given that the work was made in 2020, that the piece was made collaboratively over FaceTime. Do you have any thoughts about the future of craft involving technology? The term ‘craft’ has such a rich history, again very gendered, and technology is seen as masculine and progressive, so I’m interested as to what you think.

The conditions of being in lockdown, and having no other way to connect except through technology, were the reasons why we were forced to create in that way, but I recently read a wonderful article in Vogue about a Jamaican-born woman from New York called Racheal Scott who was using Zoom to connect to a crochet circle in Jamaica.

I feel that story tells us that technology will be a useful resource to keep cross-pollinations through the creative industry alive and connected even if we can’t be physically connected.

What motivates you to keep making? And is this specific to the medium you use at any given time? (Is your motivation to paint, for example, different to your motivation to make sculpture?)

My love for making. I am extremely grateful to be in this position. My studio and approach to making is in keeping with my term ‘wildness’ in contemporary painting.

Emily Moore, 2 Chairs 2 Lovers. Installation view. Image courtesy of the artist. 

Can you go into more depth about your term 'wildness'? Your statement online says that it is inspired by the current state of painting and its role in art history, as well as being fully grounded in your own practice, but I'm keen to hear more. 

Whilst I was at school I was on a mission to find a new language, one that is steeped in the history of art but was very much my own; one that reflected my history and my personal experiences. I was really interested in a book which blurs the boundaries between art and life, a book John Slyce, my tutor at the RCA, introduced me to in my first tutorial in the first term and that was it.

I spent a lot of time reading and researching different art movements and their relationships to contemporary art. Noticing that throughout history these waves were always created by social, political or environmental factors, I grew increasingly interested in the languages these events manifested within artists.

As I started to invest more time into researching, I realised that many movements recycled previous languages and that most art languages could be traced back.  For me, the element that hadn’t been pushed or explored enough was the multitude, and it didn't pair with my personal history and experiences.

And wildness was born.

It gives me room and space to shape my practice from a place of history and knowledge, but also allows room for experimentation. Although I had started to build this term before the world changed under the pandemic, the work that came out of the first lockdown was the piece 'Chained', which started a real conversation about so many things, including: painting as a language; high and low art; the collaboration aspect with my mum; the use of technology and the fact that it reflected many of our experiences being isolated from our family and friends.
Not really knowing what was going to happen and searching for ways to comfort ourselves through the experience became an integral part of the work.

It sounds like 'Wildness' is the start of something really special; I'm excited to see where it takes you and how it might be shaped as your practice continues to grow. As a final thought, especially now that you've exhibited in some brilliant London galleries, what would be your dream space to show your work?

There is a beach in Morant Bay St Thomas, a town in Jamaica, and as a child my Grandad took me there and declared it was "our beach". Of anywhere in the world, I would love to build an installation there with the help of my family.

I really recommend following Emily on Instagram (@emily.moore7), as not only will you be able to check out her work and upcoming exhibitions, you'll get great insight into her processes and philosophies, which are what compelled me to interview her. She has statements about identity, race and womanhood which truly need no follow-up, as the message is there in its most authentic form. 

Emily's work is included in the exhibition 'Social Fabric', which runs until 10 July 2021 at Fold Gallery in London.

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