Emma Edmondson is an artist who also works in education. More recently these practices have begun to blur, meaning her studio has to become a mobile phone (literally), laptop or notebook apart from one day a week. The quiet act of making has become an escape from this panicked, fast-forward of every day life when she is in the studio. Work is often brought to conclusion in those fleeting studio moments, while working on lesson plans and answering emails. Emma’s work stems from connections between; current socio-political issues, survival, inequality, cycles, reusing, holistic practice, functional art and the anthropocene. She explores these through sculpture, education, writing and print. In 2015 Emma set up The Other MA (TOMA) an alternative art education programme pitched at postgraduate level in Southend-on-Sea. It is a response to the barriers often facing those who want to access education in the 21st century – time, money, geography. She now runs this in partnership with Metal Southend.
MCPHEE: Where did you go to high school?
EE: Canterbury, Kent, UK
MCPHEE: What was the name of your art teacher
EE: Mr Cordeaux, aka Mr C
MCPHEE: What do you remember about them?
EE: Having heated arguments with him, many fits of tears, learning to be passionate about my practice. He was GREAT. Still is. We sometimes go and have a beer together now, 18 years later. He suggested I do life drawing when I was 12 and encouraged me to be taken by my Mum to the local art college ADULT sessions on a Thursday evening. This was GREAT also. Although it took me a few years to get the guts to draw any penises. I was fine with breasts and vaginas.
MCPHEE: Tell us about how and when you came to the art world. What/who was it that inspired you to enter the art world? In what way do you feel you were “taught” about art and by whom?
EE: I suppose Mr C did inspire me, along with my life drawing tutor Patrick Crouch. He was also GREAT. Red wine stained lips and half way through the session interjections looking at archaic yellowed slides of Matisse’s nudes. He talked about art in such an energetic, engaging way. Great times. He used to be really supportive of the work I made there, his words gave me so much confidence as a child.
MCPHEE: What artists do you recall being engaged by as a student?
EE: Sarah Lucas, Tracey Emin (early years), any female artist DIY-ing in the YBA era. Hogarth’s socio-political etchings. I loved Matisse’s lines when he drew figures. I also became obsessed with Tom Phillips’ a Humument. I channel the YBA's DIY ethic in my art practice + educational work now and still find inspiration from Tom Phillips’ playful way with words, using text a lot in my practice. Also, Phyllida Barlow for her continued practice through life and, more recently, Maria Fusco. I left art school for a bit in my early twenties to do some other things (weirdly got lost and ended up being a music journalist by accident) but I went to an art workshop at the Whitechapel Gallery with Maria Fusco looking at Isa Genzken work and it was FANTASTIC >>> I remember my brain being alone after I had left, and feeling like I was so ready to make again. That’s when I re-applied to return to art school.
MCPHEE: Tell us about the room/environment that you worked in as a student. An art class room for example?
EE: I have a photo, attached here, I’m on the left. I was a goth girl at a posh school who got an art scholarship there - do you think it shows with my happy face? I used the art room as my own private studio; I skipped Science, called in sick for sport and spent my time taking over various corners here to make + explore. <<< I LOVED IT >>>
MCPHEE: Can you tell us about an artwork that made a particular impression on you at that time? Do you feel differently about it now?
EE: I was obsessed with Andy Warhol’s screen prints, and tried to emulate them for GCSE year. When you discover Warhol as a teenager you think you’re the only one. I “borrowed” a few of his books from the school library and still have them (whoops!) Then you see the mugs, the tea towels, the apps…I appreciate Warhol still, but perhaps more for his entrepreneurial skills and the Factory space he set up, the community, the environment, rather than the art which seems to have been eaten up and chewed upon endlessly in the capital art world. But, perhaps he would be happy about all that? Especially the Warhol tea towels.
MCPHEE: Did you already know established artists before you entered the art world? Was there a particular person who acted as a sort of teacher to you?
EE: Not really, but I’ve met some along the way. Some who have taught me lessons on how NOT to be. I was a studio manager for a painter at the end of my undergrad and he taught me LOTS of lessons on not what to do. Weirdly, he was also obsessed with Andy Warhol. Which ended up putting me off Warhol I think? Haha. More recently (this weekend in fact) we had Sarah Lucas visit my alt art school TOMA so her thoughts, generous input + critical commentary are super fresh in my mind and have been really supportive + energising. It was a dream to meet her and she’s just as wonderful as her artwork. Through TOMA I am also meeting lots of other wonderful artists along the way, we’re a great bunch really people who make art - we want to help each other mainly, support + help people through supportive criticism to put good work in the world. I like being part of the artist community, not so much the art world community. But that’s a different thing...
MCPHEE: Did you visit art galleries / museums as a kid? Can you tell us about an experience you had there?
EE: YES. I was often on my own, but I liked it that way. My Mum came too, but she had always reached the end while I was still in the first room.
Visit http://www.metalculture.com/projects/toma/ and follow Emma @emerrrhhhh